Which of these is correct? The first? The second? Both?

verb then name:

"She's late again," said Jason.

name then verb:

"She's late again," Jason said.

I have almost always used the first version, but an editor said I should use the second version. She claimed the first version is grammatically incorrect even though it is common.

If the proper noun is replaced with a pronoun, then it sounds incorrect and even somewhat antiquated.

verb then pronoun:

"She's late again," said he.

pronoun then verb:

"She's late again," he said.

When I read a few novels, I checked the order, and it seems to be convention to allow "verb then name".

Is the first form allowed when writing stories in "antiquated English"? (i.e. - The story takes place centuries ago.)


2 Answers 2


The answer to your question is that both formats are in popular use. Neither is correct or incorrect. It is simply a matter of style.

The author will consider meter, tempo, flow and consistency when applying their chosen / preferred method.

  • Do you have a source for this answer?
    – RichS
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 5:24

They are both allowed. Personally, although I don't think it is a rule of grammar, my preference is:

If the verb is important to how the dialogue should be read, put the verb closest to the quote.

But if the verb is "said" (or "replied" or "answered" or "asked") and does not really inform how the dialogue should be read, then on the tail end I put the noun first and verb last, because the reverse sounds old-fashioned.

"Stop now!" shouted Jason.
Jason shouted, "Stop now!"
Jason whispered, "Get ready to run, kid."
"get ready to run, kid," whispered Jason.

But with "said", it is verb-noun on either end:

"Stop now!" Jason said.
Jason said, "Stop now!"
Jason said, "Get ready to run, kid."
"Get ready to run, kid," Jason said.

And as you note, with pronouns "said he" sounds old-fashioned. Start with the Noun-verb, pronoun-verb set:
Jason whispered, "I love you." sounds fine.
He whispered, "I love you." sounds fine,
"I love you," Jason whispered. sounds fine,
"I love you," He whispered. sounds fine.

Now the verb-noun, verb-pronoun set: Whispered Jason, "I love you." sounds weird,
"I love you," whispered Jason. sounds fine,
Whispered he, "I love you." sounds weird,
"I love you," whispered he. sounds weird,

Those are all possible combinations, and the rule seems to be Noun-Verb or Pronoun-verb always sounds okay, before or after the dialogue, but the only time Verb-Noun sounds okay is after the dialog. Verb-Pronoun never sounds okay.

Like I said, I don't think this is addressed by rules of grammar, but aesthetically, it is how I write.

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