Cut Unnecessary Dialogue Tags

“Cut Unnecessary Dialogue Tags” by Joan Y. Edwards

What do editors mean when they say to cut unnecessary dialogue tags? Reduce the number of dialogue tags. Here’s a sample with too many dialogue tags. Rewrite it using fewer tags.

John said, “I’m feeling sick.”
“Oh dear,” said Sara, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“My stomach hurts bad.”
“Did you eat something funky?” asked Sara.
John said, “I ate potato chips, three tacos, two hamburgers, and three slices of cheese.”
“I definitely see why your stomach hurts.” said Sara.

One way to eliminate unnecessary dialogue tags is to add action for the character who is speaking? 

John leaned forward and held his hands to his belly. “I’m feeling sick.”
“Oh dear,” said Sara. “I’m sorry to hear that.” She pulled a chair over for him.  “Did you eat something funky?”
“I ate potato chips, three tacos, two hamburgers, and three slices of cheese.”
“I see why your stomach hurts.”

Another way might be to name the character being addressed (the other person in the conversation).

“Sara, I’m feeling sick.”
“Oh dear. I’m sorry to hear that, John.”
“It’s my stomach.”
“Did you eat something funky?”
“I ate potato chips, three tacos, two hamburgers, and three slices of cheese.”
“I see why your stomach hurts.”

Thank you for reading my blog. You make me smile! I’d love to hear from you. How do you reduce the number of dialogue tags in your writing? Resources follow the signature.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2019 Joan Y. Edwards

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Resource
Catia Shattuck.“8 Tips for Punctuating Dialogue Tags:” https://mybookcave.com/authorpost/punctuating-dialogue-tags/

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14 thoughts on “Cut Unnecessary Dialogue Tags”

  1. When it’s obvious which character is speaking, the dialogue doesn’t need to be bogged down with ‘he said/she said’ tags.

    I try to keep them to a minimum by ensuring my characters speak differently from one another and use their body language to help convey who is speaking.

    Thanks for sharing, Joan!

    1. Dear Melanie,
      Thanks for writing. You’re right. When it’s obvious which character is speaking, the dialogue doesn’t need to be bogged down with “he said/she said” tags.

      It’s a great idea to make sure your characters speak differently from one another and use their body language to help convey who is speaking.

      Good luck with completing your two new books! You do a good job with your dialogue tags.

      Never Give Up
      Joan

    1. Dear Gretchen,
      Thank you for writing. You’re right. It does seem simple. Yet, when we’re writing our first 3 revisions, we’re usually focusing on other changes that seem to stand out more. It’s amazing how cutting a few “he said/she said” tags can make our writing flow more smoothly.

      Good luck with your books. Do you have one that’s coming out soon?

      Never Give Up
      Joan

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thank you for writing. You are right. My followers share their wisdom with their comments. You share much wisdom, Linda. I appreciate you.

      Never Give Up
      Joan

    1. Dear Sandra,
      So good to hear from you. Thanks for writing. I’m glad you believe my blog post has good advice and good examples. Thanks. How is your writing going?

      Never Give Up
      Joan

    1. Dear Cat,
      It is good to hear from you. Thank you for writing and telling me that you are sharing my post. I hope it helps the author figure out a way to make the manuscript smoother by deleting a few dialogue tags. How is your writing going?

      Never Give UP
      Joan

    1. Dear Carol,
      Thanks for writing. It’s a pleasure to hear from you. I’m glad you’ve found adding nonverbal clues helpful in your writing, too. How is Half-Truths going? Would you like to subscribe to my blog? That would be wonderful.

      Never Give Up
      Joan

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