A dialogue tag is a small phrase before, during, or after dialogue that indicates the speaker.

  • he said
  • she said
  • they said

One mistake a lot of new writers make is to express their creativity through dialogue tags. An amateur dialogue tag might look like this:

“No, don’t!” Cassie exclaimed passionately.

James Scott Bell said:

Almost always, the simple ‘said’ should be your default…’said’ is almost invisible to the reader…it does its work and stays out of the way. It lets the dialogue do the heavy lifting.

Your dialogue and description should carry their own weight. If your dialogue tags are necessary to the story past their use of indicating the speaker, that is a sign of weak writing.

Here are some examples of synonyms for “said” I’ve seen shoved into amateur prose:

  • stammers
  • inserts
  • retorts
  • snaps
  • ejaculates

There is one (1) situation to use the word “ejaculates,” and it isn’t in a dialogue tag.

I’m not exactly sure why, but high school teachers are really big on teaching students to write with “creative” dialogue tags. I cannot fathom the reason, but homies, move past it. Believe in yourself and write dialogue strong enough to stand on its own!

 

Check out the video version of this lesson!

 

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