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Dialogue In-Depth 2 - Dialogue Tags

Make sure to read last week's Dialogue Basics first!

Now you know the rules to writing dialogue correctly, let's start talking about how to write it well.

Dialogue tags are a major part of your writing, but many new writers struggle to use them in an engaging way. Here are three tips for dialogue tags!


1. Using 'Said'

When first learning to write (especially in school), we're taught to use many different dialogue tags. In one conversation your character might exclaim, then shout, then whisper, then cry, etc, etc, etc...

In today's fiction world, though, a simple said is almost always preferred.

Why? Because it's invisible. Using complicated terms is a distraction to your reader, when in most cases, you want them to be so lost in the story they forget they're even reading.

They have an imagination, and you shouldn't underestimate it! Your reader doesn't always need to know the way a word was said, which we'll discuss next.

2. Adding Adverbs

Many writers advise against using adverbs to describe your dialogue. Or, at least, overusing them.

Often there's a simpler way to get your point across (i.e. said quietly vs whispered), but usually they aren't needed because your dialogue should be strong enough the reader doesn't need any more help.

But, your style might call for description. Maybe your characters need to be distinguished, or speak differently to what we're used to. In these cases, more descriptive dialogue tags are fine.

For example, if a character says something nasty that's actually a joke, you should probably mention that, so the reader isn't confused!

3. Minimising Use

You don't always need to use dialogue tags, and you shouldn't.

Editors prefer a lack of dialogue tags and over-description, allowing your quotes to speak for themselves. Too much description can distract the reader from simply getting through the dialogue on their own.

You've probably noticed the industry standard being to keep your writing simple, and in as few words as possible. This is to not only cut down on printing costs (more pages=more money!) but to ensure readabilty for the reader. If your writing is unnecessarily complicated, people won't be engaged!


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