Writing Tip 45: Using Dialogue Tags

A dialogue tag is a small phrase either before, after, or in between the actual dialogue itself. For example:

She looked around the room and although, it was decorated nicely she noticed something peculiar about the house. “There’s no windows here, why is that?” Barbara asked.

“For protection,” he said, “it wards off bears or any large wildlife scouring for food. Besides, having the light on in the house especially at night, will attract their attention,” he added.

She nodded at the new piece of information and looked around once more. She said, “Oh that’s interesting.”

The parts that precede dialogues are the dialogue tags.

… Barbara asked

… he said

… he added

… she said

Are all dialogue tags.

Now the tricky part is how to use them. In the above example I provided you with several ways to insert dialogue tags.

1. The first one was used after the dialogue. And this is the most common one used as it is the easiest to comprehend and readers know who is saying what without the reading being interrupted.

“There’s no windows here, why is that?” Barbara asked.

Noticed that there are quotations before and after the dialogue. Also notice that the quotation goes after the punctuation. This is because the punctuation marks the end of the statement and the quotation closes the deal. It lets readers know when the dialogue started and when it ended.

2. The second dialogue tag was used in between a dialogue. This is one of the trickiest one to use because of the punctuation that comes before and after.

“For protection,” he said, “it wards off bears or any large wildlife scouring for food. Besides, having the light on in the house especially at night, will attract their attention,” he added.

The dialogue tag he said is in between two sets of dialogue. Notice that there is a comma before and after he said and that the preceding dialogue is not capitalized. I like to use in between dialogue tags when I want to connect two statements that could have been separated by the word because or since or any other conjunction.

It also changes the tone of the dialogue when it’s used.

For example if the conjunction because was used it would read differently.

“For protection because it wards off bears or any large wildlife scouring for food. Besides, having the light on in the house especially at night, will attract their attention,” he added.

3. The last dialogue tag you can use is before the dialogue.

She said, “Oh that’s interesting.”

Again notice the punctuation and the capitalization of the dialogue preceding the tag. Since She starts the sentence then She must be capitalized followed by the proper punctuation mark. Then the statement must start with quotations and capitalized ending with a period, comma, question, exclamation, or etc then end with a quotation.

I hope this helped you guys and if you have any other suggestions please let me know in the comments.

As always happy writing.

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