Conversations in the narrative are crucial because they may offer various information, including everything from a bonding moment to history to a plot twist and everything in between. The writer must ensure that the speech used in a discussion matches the speaking character and flows realistically. Quickly identifying the speaker in a discussion is crucial when writing fiction. Tags for discussion are helpful in this situation.
If you’ve worked with conversation for a while, you probably need help with how to style it appropriately on the page, what tags to use, and how to avoid having it sound repetitive. Let’s examine dialogue tags in more detail, along with their application.
What are Dialogue Tags
They serve as markers for the reader, little sentence phrases that come after the uttered words and serve as a waypoint. They serve the purpose of identifying a certain character in written speech. These brief expressions denote speech and identify the speaker for the reader.
You heard that, right? Eva asked.
The dialogue tag in the sentence is “Eva asked.” Those are mainly used to help readers distinguish between characters. Writers may also use them to sustain, heighten, or relieve tension by simulating speech’s natural rhythms, cutting up significant passages of conversation to make them more digestible, and so on.
Tags may and should generally be straightforward and basic. The most evident and often used tags are “said” and “asked.” However, dialogue tags are not limited to “said” and “asked.”
Let’s first talk about how to use them effectively in written communication.
How To Use Dialogue Tags
Many people make formatting and punctuation errors in dialogue tags, but fiction writing requires consistency and knowledge of dialogue formatting rules. Each situation has its own rules for punctuation and capitalization, and dialogue tags might appear at the Before, Middle, or After of a phrase.
Dialogue punctuation guidelines and related tags are very specific. Commas and other terminal symbols like periods, exclamation points, and question marks have specific locations. We will adhere to the conventions of formal American English in this article (UK English has various punctuation requirements).
1. Before The Phrase
When a tag is placed at the start of a quote, the speaking character is introduced before the actual quote.
Standing from her seat, Bonnie asked, ” Are you sure about this strategy?”
Placing her finger on her lip, Bonnie said, “Keep quiet class”.
- After the tag, use a comma.
- Capitalize the initial letter of the phrase if the dialogue is the beginning of it.
- Keep punctuation inside the quotation marks and punctuate the dialogue appropriately to end it.
2. Middle Of The Phrase
Interrupted dialogue can be continued in the same sentence. The tag can also be used to differentiate between two phrases. In both circumstances, this represents a pause for your character.
“I assumed you liked her,” Emma said, ” how could you have let her go?”
“I believed you were concerned,” Emma mentioned this in an attempt to provoke Harry. “How could you have let her go?”
- When there is one continuous statement, a comma before the conversation tag is enclosed in quotation marks.
- To reinsert the conversation tag, a comma is used after it, outside of quotation marks.
- The conversation tag is not capitalized unless it begins with a proper word.
- Finish the dialogue with suitable punctuation while keeping it within quotation marks.
- When there are two sentences, the first will conclude with a period, and the second will begin with a capital letter.
3. After The Phrase
Most of the time, you’ll put your conversation tag after the quotation. As a result, the quote becomes the main point of the statement.
“Are you finished?” Emma inquired.
“Are you finished?” inquired Emma.
- Punctuation is used within quote marks.
- The conversation tag is not capitalized unless it begins with a proper word.
- Finish the conversation tag with proper punctuation.
Tips For Using Dialogue Tags
1. Use dialogue tags with sensitivity
Dialogue tags indicate which character is speaking and are especially helpful when a new character enters a discussion. Dialogue tags, on the other hand, are not usually required. If you’re crafting a scenario in which two characters exchange brief lines of speech, dialogue tags are typically unnecessary after the first time you use them. When a new individual speaks, just indent and apply quotation marks. The listener can deduce who is speaking from the subtext of the discourse when the speaker switches. For example, if one of your characters has a habit of giving extended monologues, you can create numerous fresh paragraphs of conversation without interrupting with a dialogue tag.
2. Consider the word “Said”
When most people think about dialogue tags, the first word that comes to mind is typically “said.” There are two schools of thought regarding utilizing the term “said” in dialogue tags. Some authors believe that repeating “he said” and “she said” is sloppy writing and that you should switch to more descriptive, precise terms. Others think that “say” should be used since its common placeness helps it blend into the background, ensuring that the reader is not distracted by an unnecessarily complicated word. The sweet spot is probably somewhere in the middle—as long as you use descriptive replacements like “bellowed,” “chortled,” or “guffawed” sparingly.
3. Utilize indirect dialogue
Most of the speech is direct dialogue, which means we’re reading a direct quote spoken by the character and wrapped in double quotes. Indirect conversation, on the other hand, functions more like a synopsis. The author will describe the gist of the character’s words rather than duplicating the spoken sentence or portion of the statement exactly. Authors use this to communicate information about what was said but not exactly how it was stated. Because indirect dialogue does not require dialogue tags, this can be a handy technique to prevent overusing them.
4. Internal thoughts can be expressed using dialogue tags
Dialogue tags aren’t simply for spoken dialogue; they may also be used to describe your characters’ innermost thoughts and wishes. Some authors favor italics while writing a character’s thoughts, but others prefer dialogue tags without italics. Italics offer a layer of narrative distance between the character and what’s going on in the scenario. Your format will determine your writing style and whether you write in first-person or third-person.
Should dialogue tags be overlooked?
Dialogue tags should not be fully avoided, but their usage should be limited, so they do not bother the reader. Make sure readers know which character is speaking at all times, but remember that dialogue tags aren’t the only method to identify the speaker.
Use action beats in collaboration with your dialogue tags as a safe alternative.
What are Action Beats in dialogue?
An action beat describes an action performed by a character while speaking. It informs the reader who is speaking and shows the character in action. Similar action to speech shows that the same individual was speaking.
Dialogue Tag: “Leave,” John said, “right now.”
Action Beat: “Leave” John pointed at the door, “right now.”
As you can see, action beats may be used in place of dialogue tags to help break up the discourse. If you’re composing a discussion with numerous speaking characters, you don’t always need to use a dialogue tag to indicate that the speaker has changed.
The reader’s attention can be shifted from one character to another by using action beats.
The most effective dialogue is where readers can see your characters speaking, free of the clutter and distractions of poor punctuation, repetitive tags, adverbs, or synonyms. Reading your text aloud and hearing how the dialogues sound is the most unique approach to checking if your dialogue tags are correct.