Okay, which is the proper way of a character asking a question? and why is it better one way vs the other?

1.) "Why is it you always show up when you are not wanted?" he asked.

2.) "Why is it you always show up when you are not wanted?" Areon asked.

3.)"Why is it you always show up when you are not wanted?" asked Areon.

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    They are all fine. Which one you choose depends purely on aesthetics and your inner ear. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jul 7 '15 at 14:27

What is churning like sand in my inner ear is the "wanted comma asked" in all three examples.

These are all fine:

"Where have you been?" he asked.

"Where have you been?" John asked.

"Where have you been?" asked John.

This is better:

"Why is it you always show up when you are not wanted?" Areon stared at me intently.

The pause caused by the full stop separates the two -ed-forms enough to break the reduplication of your examples.

Also, "asked" only repeats what the question mark already tells us and is therefore superfluous and bad style. Tell us something we don't know to add intensity to your writing.


Style is a matter of personal taste. This answer reflects mine. I once read a translation of the Mabinogion, where the discourse between Pwyll, prince of Dyfed, and Arawn, king of Annwn, went something like this:

"...," said Pwyll.

"...," said Arawn.

"...," said he.

"...," said he.

"...," said he.

"...," said he.

I very much love this, but if I read it in a contemporary novel, even if it was fantasy, I'd put it in the recycling bin.

Contemporary fiction is often characterized by sparse descriptions and filmic narration. My "better" example reflects this fashion, which, of course, you need not emulate. There are other, more traditional styles, where "he said" is common and fine.

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  • I read somewhere (I can't remember where, but it could be on these very premises) that it is usally preferable to repeat the word "say". Indeed, the "ask" is already marked by the "?", and it makes the style somewhat heavier. And, what, therefore :-) – clem steredenn Jul 8 '15 at 8:48
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    @bilbo_pingouin I added a note to my answer. – user5645 Jul 8 '15 at 10:09

My opinion, I like stating who's speaking before the "asked" "Said" "stated" "declared" "claimed" or whatever else. like

Susan said Susan Whined Susan complained Susan cried

that's just my taste though. Once you find what works for you then you know, that's your style.

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