Archive for April 25th, 2011

Apr 25 2011

How to Use Dialogue Tags Effectively

Published by under Dialogue

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Dialogue tags are phrases like “he said” or “she joked” that let readers know which speaker is delivering a line.

1.  If the dialogue tag isn’t necessary, remove it. Does the dialogue tag provide enough information to readers to justify spending 2+ words?  I’ve read manuscripts with hundreds of unnecessary dialogue tags.  Cutting back can free up pages for actual content.

  • WASTE OF SPACE: “I’ll never leave you,” he promised. “I’ll never leave you” is obviously a promise, so “he promised” is unnecessary.
  • HELPFUL:  “You study three hours a day,” she accused.  Without “she accused,” readers might misinterpret this as a compliment.

2.  Make sure your tags fit the context of the sentence.

  • WRONG: “I want a pizza,” he stated.   “Stated” is far too formal to fit here.  (It also connotes deliberation and authority/confidence, like someone delivering an official finding or report).
  • RIGHT: “This man was murdered,” the coroner stated.
  • SO VERY WRONG: “I want a pizza,” he ejaculated.

Continue Reading »

7 responses so far