Dialogue Tags: Just Say “Said”

…or asked. I’ve been thinking a lot about dialogue tags lately and how common it is for new writers to want to “mix it up.” It’s not necessary. If it’s not clear who is speaking and you need a tag, use the most straight-forward one:  ”asked” or “said” as needed. If it feels necessary to bolster the dialogue with something more descriptive, that usually indicates that there’s a problem with the dialogue or the narrative surrounding it. The same applies to use of adverbs alongside the tags (“He said longingly.” “She thundered angrily.”). JK Rowling used these suckers to a distracting degree, so if you make that mistake don’t feel bad–you’re in good company. As my husband and I say to one another after a dispute: “Just make a note to yourself to do better next time.”

This is a quick and dirty post, so if you’d like to read other sources, or you don’t complete trust my advice, just do a quick search for “dialogue tags/attribution” or “dialogue tags other than ‘said’” and see what it yields–lots of people have written about it. See this one or this one , for example.

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