Before You Submit: Dialogue Tags

Do you have a draft of your novel or short story and are thinking of submitting to an agent, publisher or writing contest? My series called Before You Submit might help. This series contains hints and tips I’ve received from professionals in the publishing industry. Each week I’ll share a new tip.

This week I’ll write about dialogue tags.

Are you using too many dialogue tags? Does he said/she said sound repetitive? Here’s a tip on how to reduce the number of tags you are using.

Try using a character’s action to indicate who’s speaking. The following sentence uses a dialogue tag: Kendra said.

“You dropped this,” Kendra said. She held a crumpled piece of paper in her outstretched hand.

The editor recommended I rewrite the sentence as follows:

Kendra held a crumpled piece of paper in her outstretched hand. “You dropped this.” 

By  moving the character action to the beginning of the sentence, it’s clear Kendra is speaking. There is no need for the dialogue tag. When you remove a dialogue tag, you must update the punctuation. Don’t forget to change the comma to a period inside the dialogue quotes.

I hope this helps improve your writing.

See Before You Submit:Likeable Characters for the first blog in this series and an introduction the benefits of submitting even if you get a rejection letter.

Thanks for reading . . .