Who Said It: The Use of Dialogue Tags

March 25, 2015

This month we’re looking at spring cleaning our manuscripts.  So far we’ve discussed salvaging scenes and text, changing point of view in a scene, and deciding when to write a scene or skip it.  We’re now going to look at one of my favorite parts of writing: dialogue tags.

Why I Love Dialogue Tags

This is another aspect of writing that is hotly debated, and there are many schools of thought on the subject.  I’m going to throw out my point of view.

*Word of warning: This is my point of view on dialogue tags.  You do not need to use my rule of thumb when it comes to these things, but it’s what I do in my writing.

If the word can be substituted with said, you should use said.

Yes, I said it.  To me, superfluous dialogue tags are like adverbs.  They just add bulk to your writing and distract readers from the point of your story.  I like said.  Nothing wrong with said.  So I use said.  There are few times when I need to address the tone or volume at which something is spoken in which case I would consider another word.  But for a standard conversation between two characters, it’s said.

For the love of God, use dialogue tags.

I’m not sure I can stress this enough.  Some writers almost seem as if they are afraid of overusing dialogue tags.  I am here as a reader to say: please use dialogue tags!!!!  If I have to go back and use my index finger to determine who the heck is speaking, that’s just lazy writing.  Make sure every conversation is clear when it comes to determining who is speaking.

So there you have it, four places to spring clean in your current work in progress.  Good luck, writers!

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