Lose Those Dialogue Tags

Within 24 hours, I’ve heard advice from two published children’s books authors that removing dialogue tags is a best practice in your writing/editing.  “Really?” she asked. “’Tis true,” I replied.

Ana Crespo’s advice was personal – she was reading a picture book manuscript I wrote and said I had an opportunity to trim by cutting a lot of my tags. In fact, she said in a lot of the picture book industry there’s a drive to cut them altogether: let the nature of the statements and the illustrations clarify who is saying what.

Denise Vega’s advice can be found online – it’s #8 on this video. She talks about cutting tags and, when needed, replacing them with the ‘invisible’ tags (said, reply, and ask). Definitely check it out for the other 9 tips she offers.

I will say that the prevalence of dialogue tags in writing has led to my children using them in their speaking. My son will say (these quotes are in the right place) “It’s time to go, he said.” So we’ll gain tighter narratives, and we’ll lose a little adorableness. Luckily there’s no shortage of cute things that kids will say!

How often are you dialogue-tagging your writing? Do you have dialogue tags that need to be cut or given a cloak of invisibility?

149 thoughts on “Lose Those Dialogue Tags

  1. I use the un-noticable “said,” but am now reading a novel by Avi where even that is omitted. The dialogue just flows with nary a tag in sight. The reader is never confused about who is talking, and yet the dialogue is tagless.

    • I think that’s a great compliment to Avi – able to remove both the tag and the confusion! Something to strive for.

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