Edits By Knight

Dialogue Tags

The “He Said, She Said” of the Writing World

Two people talking with three speech bubbles above them,: a red one containing a heart emoji, a green one with an ellipses, and the last with a pound sign.

     Dialogue tags identify which character is speaking during a scene with dialogue, and learning to use them properly is frustrating for many writers (and even editors!) However, the two issues I come across most often are knowing which ones to use and how many to include.

     When you’re writing dialogue, you want it flow just as naturally as it would in real life. However, the lines of dialogue themselves won’t always be enough to keep your readers from getting confused. As a writer, you must indicate who’s doing the talking so the reader can follow along, and this is where dialogue tags come into play.

     However, you don’t want to call attention to the fact that you’re writing the dialogue, and when you overuse tags—or use them incorrectly—the reader will be pulled out of the story. If you’re writing “he said” or “she said” every other line, it’ll just remind your audience that they’re reading; a conversation with too many tags is where immersion goes to die. Ideally, your tags will melt into your readers subconscious without them even knowing it.

What is a Dialogue Tag, Anyway?

     A dialogue tag is a short phrase, usually one or two words, that contains a noun (the speaker) and a verb that describes the speech. It can appear before, during, or after a line of dialogue itself, and is part of the same sentence. The tag identifies the speaker, and more descriptive tags can also convey the quality of the character’s speech: tone, volume, emotion, etc.

Basic Dialogue Tags

When you do need a tag, these should accompany the bulk of your dialogue:

  • said
  • replied
  • asked
  • answered

Be sure to check out the rest of the rules of dialogue, and visit visit my blog’s main page to find more tips and tricks for editors, writers, and freelancers!

Miko lives in North Alabama with their husband, Mark—two bright blue dots in a really red state. The pair have three cats, Henry, Louise, and Jefferson Twilight, and live the quiet and satisfying lives of two nerdy introverts. The work-from-home lifestyle is perfect for Miko, who was diagnosed with ADHD and autism in their late thirties.

     In their spare time, Miko enjoys gardening, playing the piano, singing, playing JRPGs, Tabletop gaming, and (of course) reading.

For more about me, visit my blog here.

Miko lives in North Alabama with their husband, Mark—two bright blue dots in a really red state. The pair have three cats, Henry, Louise, and Jefferson Twilight, and live the quiet and satisfying lives of two nerdy introverts. The work-from-home lifestyle is perfect for Miko, who was diagnosed with ADHD and autism in their late thirties.

     In their spare time, Miko enjoys gardening, playing the piano, singing, playing JRPGs, Tabletop gaming, and (of course) reading.

For more about me, visit my blog here.