Around a century ago there was a series of adventure novels starring a hero named Tom Swift. These books were known for using adverbs with conversation tags in order to add extra emphasis:
“The airplane is taking off!” Tom said quickly.
“We’ve got to follow it!” Jane agreed enthusiastically.
Adding an adverb to a conversation tag at first seems like it clarifies the feelings of the speaker, or adds another level of storytelling since you can engage the speaker’s feelings in greater detail, but instead it simply slows down the conversation. Dialogue with adverbs feels wooden and disjointed, like a poor translation from another language. Everyone has a natural sense of conversation, since it is so important to our lives. Dialogue should be as minimal as possible, so the reader can feel like a participant. Tags should be used sparingly, and limited to said or asked. In the flow of conversation between two people, it sounds much more natural to get rid of the tags altogether and only use them when it seems unclear who is speaking.
People began making fun of the Tom Swift style and created a joke called a Tom Swifty. If a style is so abrasive that it became a joke, it’s worthwhile for any writer to understand it. Here are a few famous Tom Swifties (I love the wanton disregard one!):
“I’d like to stop by the mausoleum,” Tom said cryptically.
“Pass me the shellfish,” said Tom crabbily.
“We just struck oil!” Tom gushed.
“Get to the back of the ship!” Tom said sternly.
“I have no flowers,” Tom said lackadaisically.
“I forgot what I needed at the store,” Tom said listlessly.
“I’d like my money back, and then some,” said Tom with interest.
“I decided to come back to the group,” Tom rejoined.
“I dropped my toothpaste,” Tom said, crestfallen. (Crest toothpaste)
“I love hot dogs,” said Tom with relish.
“If you want me, I shall be in the attic,” Tom said, loftily.
“What our team needs is a home run hitter,” Tom said ruthlessly. (Babe Ruth)
“I’ll have another martini,” said Tom dryly.
“Pass me another chip,” said Tom crisply.
“I’m wearing a ribbon around my arm,” said Tom with abandon.
“Baa,” said Tom sheepishly.
“Stay away from that turtle!” Tom snapped.
“I’m throwing this soup on the ground!” said Tom with wanton disregard.
“I own 1,760 yards of paddy fields,” he said with a wry smile. (“rice mile”)
“There’s no more room in the hay barn,” said Tom balefully.