Dialogue tags are the words that refer dialogue to a speciﬁc character. The two most common examples are “said” and “asked”.
- “I’m not going!” said Charlie.
They are essential in writing, particularly in scenes that include several characters, because they help the reader follow the conversation. Novice writers, however, have an annoying tendency to use more ﬂowery dialogue tags and pepper them with adverbs.
- “I’m not going!” said Charlie angrily.
- “I’m not going!” shouted Charlie.
- “I’m not going!” roared Charlie furiously.
More than anything, tags like these tend to distract the reader. Ideally, your dialogue tags should be invisible within your writing, just signposts that point out who is speaking. The character’s actions or the dialogue itself should be carrying the emotion. Don’t depend on an adverb to make your reader feel something.
Where possible, try to omit dialogue tags altogether. Instead, use description and action to point out your speaker and build your scene.
- Charlie slammed his ﬁst on the table. “I’m not going and that’s ﬁnal.”
In this example, Charlie’s anger was shown, not told. The reader knows that he is the one speaking – even without a tag – and his ﬁst shows that he is angry instead of an adverb. It gives much stronger sense of the scene. ProWritingAid Improve your writing
Use the ProWritingAid Dialogue Tags Check so that you can ﬁnd a better way to demonstrate emotion. Note: this report is currently only available in the online editor. We will add it to the desktop app asap.
This and other great tips for using ProWritingAid are included in our ebook: 20 Editing Tips From Professional Writers. Download it for free now!