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Dialogue Tags; When and How to Use Them

writing tips

By Amethyst ChampagnePublished 3 years ago Updated 8 months ago 3 min read
Dialogue Tags; When and How to Use Them
Photo by Dima Pechurin on Unsplash

Hey, it’s me again, and for this post, I’ll be discussing dialogue tags, how to use them, and when to omit them from your dialogue.

What Are Dialogue Tags?

So, in case you don’t know what they are, dialogue tags are little descriptors used after a character speaks, he said/she said/I said. They are seen in every piece of fiction and plenty of non-fiction writing.

And I’m sure many of you have heard or read an article saying it’s not the best idea to use the he said/she said/I said tag every time. It gets somewhat repetitive and annoying.

So let me guess, you also use the words replied, stated, and commented? Yeah, I figured. You don’t want to do that either. It makes you look amateurish and gets tedious to read and write after a while.

Don’t feel bad, though. I did this, too, when I first started writing.

Many authors do this, whether indie, self-published, or traditionally published, which is the more annoying one since they have a plethora of editors at their disposal.

I guess you would say it’s a rite of passage for creative writers.

How Not To Use So Many Dialogue Tags

While they are the norm, like italics for distinguishing character thoughts, dialogue tags are often unnecessary and can detract from the story.

Using Action to Convey the Mood

Luckily, I have a great workaround that never gets old or repetitive.

Instead of having dialogue tags pepper your writing, I use an action to express how the character might say their lines.

Example one: “I can’t believe this!” she shrieked.

Example two: “I can’t believe this!” she shrieked, pacing around the room.

Example three: “I can’t believe this!” she paced around the room, arms moving theatrically.

See the differences?

Ex. three brings about more context through the action without expressing how the character speaks. As a result, it helps your writing be more dynamic and alive.

Using Dialogue Tags Sparingly

Many people use one and/or two. And sometimes, I’ll even use a tag between two portions of a sentence.

Example:

“Why can’t I go?” she huffed. “Everybody else is.”

But that’s only when I can’t think of a particular action for my characters to do, and I try not to do it often.

I never do anything like example two, though.

I see no point in combining one and three like that. They’re probably attempting to increase their word counts. Often, when I’m reading, I’ll imagine cutting out the tag and just leaving the action portion.

But I digress.

Using No Tags

Sometimes, you don’t need any tag after a character stops talking. It can help with the pacing of your writing.

Example:

“How’s it going?”

“Pretty good.”

But that one is dependent on the situation. And don’t do it if there are more than two characters in the area who are talking—no need for the added confusion.

When to Use Dialogue Tags

Although fiction is not real life, nor should it be, you want to try to make your writing as close as possible, and in real life, you don’t see dialogue tags popping up out of nowhere.

Now, the exception to my rules of using dialogue tags in writing is when your MC can’t see the person talk, such as if they’re talking over the phone or if the other character is in a different room.

Example:

“Would you please hurry up?”

“I’m going as fast as I can!” he called from the other room.

Because unless your POV style is omniscient, your MC can’t know what others are doing if they can’t see them. It’s one of the universal rules of writing that is not debated.

To Finish

That all being stated, you do what you think is best for your writing. But go and write already!

***

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About the Creator

Amethyst Champagne

I create fiction, short stories, poetry, and more!

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    Amethyst ChampagneWritten by Amethyst Champagne

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