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What speech tags can you use for people who are mute? You usually use "he said" as speech tag when you introduce a dialogue when you want to introduce a speech, but can you use the generic "said" for introducing dialogues for people who are mute?

"Watch out!" he signalled with his hands.

"Watch out!" he spoke with his hands.

"Watch out!" he said.

I am thinking "he said" would be ok, because it would be understood within the context of the story, that he's using "his hands", but I am not sure.

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    interesting, I wrote a question the other day about stuttering(it's not about being mute, but difficult talking) - and this question is perfectly legitimate! thanks for asking it ! :) Jan 16, 2023 at 7:57
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    In my experience, it's usually called signing - so 'he signed'. Jan 16, 2023 at 9:38
  • Do you want to draw attention to the fact that they're signing, or make it look like normal dialog as much as possible? If the latter is the case, a simple "he said" would be fine. Although to some extent it depends on style - if you're one of those people who uses long florid speech tags like "he opined thoughtfully", "he muttered through clenched teeth", etc, then it might be ok to find similar phrases for signing; but if you hate that, just put "he/she said".
    – Stuart F
    Jan 24, 2023 at 17:21

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My first idea would be to write them in italics. The "He signed," "He gesticulated," or "He motioned" seem fine, but it's a matter of personal preference and style.

Alternatively, as the viewpoint character meets this mute character, they could start out not quite used to this. Depict this with the description being clunky and complex, like their thoughts would be trying to figure out what this person is "saying."

Then he made a sign, and (maincharname) was afraid for a second that he didn't hear. "What?" He made the sign again, and with a flash of embarrassment (maincharname) realized that there was nothing to hear. His mouth didn't move at all, there was nothing to hear. He wasn't trying to get his attention, he was signing.

"Over... There?" He nodded.

As the story progresses, this could be simplified gradually until, symbolic of the character finally being accustomed to this form of communication, it's simply "He signed" or "He motioned."

Unfamiliar:

He moved his hands (again), and [maincharname] realized he meant "It's just that way."

Somewhat familiar:

He moved his hands to sign "It's just that way."

Completely familiar:

He signed "It's just that way."

Sorry if I'm hard to understand, I kinda taught myself using janky methods and only recently (so, two years after I started writing three years ago) started reading books and stuff about writing. Hope this helps.

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