Dialogue tags are short modifications to sections of dialogue. They let the reader know who is speaking. Dialogue tags should be used sparsely. In fact, many writers avoid them altogether, and instead, allow the voices within the dialogue to identify the speaker. If dialogue is developed well, tags should be unnecessary, though, sometimes a well-placed tag can change the pacing or add closure in effective ways.
“Look at me.”
“I’m looking at you.”
“No. Look at ME.” She moved her face to three inches from his.
“Okay,” he said. “I see you.”
The above action beat, She moved her face to three inches from his, is a short modifier describes what the character is doing in relationship to what the character is saying. Beats can be used effectively to change the pacing within a longer dialogue stream. Using them sparsely, at just the right moments, and they can add a great deal of texture to dialogue. Use them too frequently, and they will detract from the dialogue.
Submit Your Work for Individualized Feedback
Please use Universal Manuscript Guidelines when submitting: .doc or .docx, double spacing, 10-12 pt font, Times New Roman, 1 inch margins, first page header with contact information, section breaks “***” or “#.”
A Handbook to Literature. William Harmon.
“Cogito et Histoire de la Folie.” Jacques Derrida.
The Elements of Style. William Strunk.
New Oxford American Dictionary. Edited by Angus Stevenson and Christine A. Lindberg.
The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Martin Puchner, et al.
The Norton Introduction to Philosophy. Gideon Rosen and Alex Byrne.
Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. Patricia T. O’Conner
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French & Ned Stuckey-French.
Writing the Other. Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.« Back to Reference Index