Writing Strategies Descriptive Dialogue Tags

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Writing Strategies

Descriptive Dialogue Tags

Dialogue: Conversation between characters. Dialogue moves the story forward and reveals emotions of the characters. “Quotation marks” show what the characters are saying.
Dialogue Tag: (also called an attribution) shows who is talking. They should also reflect how the character is speaking, such as: he commanded, or she whispered.
Descriptive Dialogue Tags: using strong action verbs to show the mood of the dialogue and make the writing more descriptive and interesting.
Writing Dialogue Tags:

  • Use a strong verb (instead of said)

EXAMPLE: whispered, shouted, spat, cried, murmured, howled, questioned, growled,
exclaimed….. (to name a few)

“You forgot your homework at school again?!” Mom spat.

EXAMPLE: Cate held out a steaming mug. "Coffee, Phil?"

  • Don’t use any dialogue tags in a moment of fast-paced dialogue between characters to speed up the action




It burned me!”


Punctuating Dialogue

  • The punctuation mark always goes INSIDE the quotes.

EXAMPLE: “Sit down!” Mom screamed.


Mom, Ben stole my diary again.” Erin whined.

Ben!” Mom snapped, her eyes darting to him in the rear view mirror, “We have talked about this more than once. Give Erin her diary back!”

Fine,” Ben sighed, “she never has anything interesting happen to her anyways.”

  • Use a comma to separate the quote from the tag ONLY if the tag has a speech verb in it. A dialogue tag, when followed by a quote should be in lower case.

EXAMPLE: “What is wrong?” he asked.

  • If the dialogue tag interrupts a sentence of dialogue, the second portion of the dialogue should be in lower case.

EXAMPLE: “Now then,” he said, “let’s see how fast this car can drive.”

  • If you want to put a dialogue tag in between two sentences, capitalize the second sentence of dialogue.

EXAMPLE: “Now then, let’s see how fast this car can drive.” he said. “Buckle up.”

  • If the information following a quote is not a dialogue tag (a speech verb), the quote should end with a period.

EXAMPLE: “I thought I would find you here.” She closed the door quietly behind her.
Write the most creative descriptive dialogue tags to set the mood…
“Did you bury it?”
“What do you think? Of course I did.”

“Did anyone see you do it?”
“I don’t think so…Anyway, I’m just relieved it’s finished.”

All I know is that nobody will ever see it again.”

Adapted from cdykema@hpsk12.net and http://themackennasaga.blogspot.com

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