Monday, July 30, 2012

#Writing Tip ~ Dialogue Tags

In the spirit of last week's discussion, I realized there is more to think about when writing dialogue.

Dialogue Tags:  Popular wisdom says not to add any tag after dialogue besides "said" or "asked."  Now, I don't always follow popular wisdom, and I will put in a whispered or something on rare occasion, but like regional dialect we discussed last week, this should be kept to a minimum.  The reason for this is "said" and "asked" become invisible words.  The reader's mind skips right over them, and they don't make an impact.  However, creative modifiers like expostulated, articulated, or the ever-horrifying ejaculated will pull readers from the story (and some may have them rolling on the ground with mirth or running for a dictionary).  Be careful with your tags.

In fact, you can avoid too many dialogue tags by having your character perform some sort of action when you need to refer to who's speaking.  This avoids talking heads and shows the reader what is happening. However, sometimes just using the tag is nice. Mix it up.

Names in Dialogue:  I am guilty of this and always have to edit it out, but you should rarely use the name of the person your character is talking to in the dialogue.  Think about it... how often do you call someone their name during the course of a normal conversation? Maybe once when they first walk up to you? Somehow, I use names in my dialogue all the time, even though I know this isn't very realistic.  Sometimes I do it on purpose to identify the speaker without an action or dialogue tag, but use this sparingly as well, and the writing will come across as more realistic.

Commas before Names:  If you do use a name in the dialogue, you need a comma before it and after it if they continue talking. This is a rule I didn't know about and sometimes miss still. Same thing if you use an endearment to refer to the other person, such as honey or babe or slugger.  Example:  "What you doing, Frank?" "Nothing, babe, just taking out the garbage."

Happy writing and thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful week!

~ Chantel


  1. What synchronicity! Just started writing a book solely with dialogue - thanks for the tips!

    1. :-) Good luck with the writing! I love doing the first draft!


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