The “He said, She said” of using Dialogue Tags

This week I’ve been researching Dialogue Tags (also known as speech tags).

First, what is a Dialogue Tag?

It is a small phrase either before, after, or in between the actual dialogue itself.

Example: “Did you finally read the book?” she asked. The phrase “she asked” is the dialogue tag of that sentence.

Although it is generally accepted that dialogue tags are mostly ignored by the reader, too many of them in your writing can be overly distracting … and using adverbs in place of them can be downright annoying.

Example: “Did you finally read the book?” she giggled. You can’t “giggle” a question!

A better way of writing that sentence would be: “Did you finally read the book?” she said, giggling.

Action versus Dialogue Tag

Do you know the phrase “Actions speak louder than words”? Well, the same can be said for dialogue tags … instead of using one, try using the character’s actions to convey who is speaking. Not only do you avoid the complications of what proper grammar and punctuation to use with a dialogue tag, but you can also convey more emotion, context, and scene detail when using this method instead of throwing in a bland “she asked”.

Example: Jane was thrilled to finally get her seat in the packed theater, she’d been waiting years for this film adaptation to come out. She turned excitedly to her friend, barely able to contain herself. “Did you finally read the book?”

Isn’t that better? You know who is doing the talking; plus we’ve added in some context for the question while also conveying some emotion from our character Jane, and all in a setting we can relate to.

Now give it a go on your writing … just take one page of mostly dialogue and replace all the “he said”, “she said” with Action!