On Dialogue Tags

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“Be wary of dialogue tags,” she warned.

“Ha,” he laughed.  “I’ll tag my dialogue as I please!,” he exclaimed.

“Peace,” she groaned.  “Have mercy,” she begged.

“I enjoy your pain,” he gloated.  “Let all tremble before my might,” he boasted…

 

Okay.  Yeah, I can’t do this anymore.  I’m annoying myself.  See the above?  Yeah.  Don’t do that.  If you must use dialogue tags at all, try to stick with ‘said’ and ‘asked’.  Let your characters words and actions show what they are doing and feeling rather than stick in a dialogue tag to tell them.

Other dialogue tags should be used very sparingly, if they are used at all.  If you are using other tags more than once in conversation, you are probably using them too often.  Dialogue tags should be nearly invisible to the reader, so when they aren’t, it needs to be important.  Emphasis.  Ye old out of character alert that something a bit out of the ordinary is going on here.  Used too often, they lose their impact and just become annoying.

Also, you can’t actually laugh a line of dialogue.  You can, however, say something while laughing or trying not to laugh.

And yes, I know, you’ll find English teachers, particularly at the Jr. High level, who tell you to use other words for dialogue tags.   I also know that while it is difficult, you must refrain from smacking them upside the head with the thesaurus.

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