Writing Tip 46: When and How often Should I use Dialogue Tags

The most important rule to remember about dialogue tags is to make your dialogue easy for your readers to read and to understand.

Rule 1.

If your dialogue is short, the lines each character is speaking has few words, and there are two people speaking, then you can use fewer dialogue tags. For example:

“I’m looking for my book,” Lisa said.

“Which book?” Peter asked.

“My math book. Can you help me look for it?”

“Sure, I’ll look in the den.”


Rule 2.

If you are writing dialogue where there are three or more characters then use enough dialogue tags to clearly indicate who is speaking. For example:

“You are not funny,” Lisa said.

“I wasn’t trying to be funny,” Peter said, “I was being serious.”

“It was rather hurtful if I may add.”

“I have to agree with Lisa, Peter, I think you were being sarcastic,” Jody added.

Rule 3.

If you are trying to insert action or description, you can use it as a dialogue tag. For example.

Lisa dragged herself across the room. “I’m so tired.”

“I know,” Peter said, drying sweat from his forehead.


Rule 4.

Where should you add your dialog tag?

I find it that I enjoy reading books where dialog tags are found at the end of a sentence (dialogue).

However, you should vary your sentence structures by adding actions and inner thoughts between dialogue. Which means your dialogue tags can be found before, in between, after, or not at all in a dialogue.

If you are using dialogue tags before the dialogue then there’s no need to add a dialogue tag at then end of that dialogue. You can add an action that the character is performing.

For example:

Jody asked, “What color dress was Lisa wearing to the party?” She brushed a flock of hair behind her ears a mannerism Jody did when she was nervous.


Jody brushed a flock of hair behind her ears nervously. “What color dress was Lisa wearing to the party?” She often fiddled with her hair when she was nervous about something.


“What color dress was Lisa wearing to the party?” Jody asked. She brushed a flock of hair behind her ears trying to be casual but in fact she was nervous. “I thought I saw her with Mark at the park instead,” she added.

If I missed any other rule let me know by commenting below.

As always happy writing.



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