"Using Speaker Attributions Correctly"
by L. S. King
Attributions are one of the least understood little devices used in writing, I think. I see them misused all the time, and have done so myself way too often.
Proper attributions help the reader see and hear how a person is speaking. A few proper attributions can enhance dialogue. Here's a simple example.
"Don't tell Mama," she whispered.
The biggest confusion about speaker attribs is that there is so much disagreement on what is, and isn't, a proper attribution. Some are clear. Like whisper. Or hiss. They are descriptions of ways we can talk. Often a beat or other description can do a better job than these attribs, but they are legitimate. I would, however, suggest using these attribs only when truly needed.
But some are not so clear. I like snarl. 'He snarled' is a wonderful attrib. Yet I know both writers and editors who don't consider it appropriate. "A person can't snarl dialogue," they say. I beg to differ, using as a reference dictionary.com: