He said, she said, Dad asked, Mom blurted out.
All of these are examples of dialogue tags.
Definition: A dialogue tag is two or more words that attribute speech to a particular speaker.
“Do you know what a dialogue tag is?” asked Sloane.
“No clue,” said Dan.
In these sentences asked Sloane and said Dan are dialogue tags.
When writing dialogue tags, the basic “rules” are
- use either “said” or “asked,” unless you can’t avoid using a different verb.
2. don’t use a dialogue tag at all if you can avoid it.
But what about those strong verbs our teachers and writing coaches have nagged us about forever?
Good question. Nothing is inherently wrong with those verbs, but in dialogue they can often pull the reader right out of the story.
“I can’t find my new necklace,” Judy exclaimed.
“Look under the bed,” Fred responded.
“I already did that!” Judy snarled.
“Then stop whining,” Fred snapped.
Technically, there’s nothing wrong with those sentences. But professionally, there are much slicker ways to get the same message across. The use of the verbs exclaimed, responded, snarled, and snapped attract attention to themselves, rather than doing much to move the story along.
“I can’t find my new necklace,” Judy said. She knelt down to search through the dust bunnies under her bed.
“Look under the bed,” said Fred, fiddling with his tie in front of the mirror.
Judy threw up her hands in frustration. “I already did that!”
“Then stop whining.” Fred had had enough!
The second example paints a clearer picture of what’s going on in this story, how Fred and Judy are feeling, and where they are. Note that Fred’s final comment doesn’t even need a dialogue tag.
Here’s another pair of dialogue samples, borrowed from scribophile.com:
“I don’t care,” Bill shouted.
“I’m not talking about this anymore,” argued Sharon.
Bill slammed his palm on the table. “I don’t care!”
Sharon didn’t flinch this time, her body was too rigid for that. She lifted her chin. “I’m not talking about this anymore.”
Having said all of the above, I now share with you a chart of 200 verbs you can use instead of said. Find the chart at http://www.spwickstrom.com/said1/.