Writing group

How to Not do Dialogue (tags)


You wouldn’t think it, but writing dialogue can be a tricky thing. Not everyone has the ability to write natural sounding dialogue, not without lots of practice and revision.

Dialogue is so important to get right. Not only does it add to the realism of your novel, but to the authenticity of your characters. Now i’m not here to give you tips on how to write dialogue, (another time I promise,) but to sort of rant about a dialogue trend that does not work.

One of the first steps to writing realistic dialogue isn’t the actual dialogue itself, but how it’s presented. Dialogue tags (ie, the ‘he said, she said,) informs your reader how the dialogue is said and is the easiest way to show your reader how your character is reacting.

But here’s the thing. Writers seem to have gotten it into their heads to make dialogue tags as specific as possible. And it does not work. Have you seen the resources going around? You know, the ones titled ‘X amount of different words to use instead of said.’ I don’t like these, because it’s akin to opening up a thesaurus or right clicking for an synonym instead of using a simpler word.


It can work. But a lot of these words don’t actually mean what people think they do, and serve to make your writing sound stodgy, and upset the flow of your novel. Using ‘said,’ is not a bad thing. People instinctively skip over the word said, so in those moments you do use more elaborate (but not too elaborate,) dialogue tags, the readers notices. 


‘He answered.’

‘She promised.’

‘They demanded.’


‘He avowed.’

‘She postulated.’

‘They chirped.’


There are easier, more natural ways to get across your characters feelings and emotions in dialogue.

As a reader, having to stumble over a long word, or feeling the need to look it up to fully understand how a character is saying something is only going to annoy me. Convoluted words can pull readers from a story. Simple words allow the reader to instantly understand the emotions.

Using all the weird, quirky, smart sounding words as a tool to increase readers perception of how smart you and the story are, in fact does the opposite. It can often be the sign of an amateur writer.

Let your words speak for themselves. Keep them simple and easy to understand.

Good thoughts and happy writing.




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