Deciding whether to use a dialogue tag or an action tag in a dialogue?

Asked by: Kathleen Horton

What is the difference between dialogue tag and action tag?

A dialogue tag is a speaker verb such as “Tina said.” It tells your readers which character is speaking. An action beat is something a character does. Example: “I should be going.” Tina edged toward the door.

Can you use an action as a dialogue tag?

An action tag is when an author uses an action rather than a speech tag like “he/she said” to let the reader know who’s speaking. For example, when writing dialogue, I could use a speech tag (which is in bold): “Sarah, why didn’t you text me back?” Jane asked. Or, I could use an action tag (which is in bold):

Should I use dialogue tags?

Dialogue tags help the reader know which character is speaking and are particularly useful when a new character enters a conversation. However, dialogue tags are not always necessary.

When should a dialogue tag be added?

If you are writing with multiple (three or more) characters, use only enough dialogue tags to clearly indicate who is speaking. If you are trying to insert action or description, you can use it as the dialogue tag.

What is dialogue and action?

The easiest way to imagine action and dialogue in written narrative is to think of a movie. When characters onscreen do things, that’s action. When they talk, that’s dialogue. Most of a story’s momentum is contained in action and dialogue.

How can you add action or dialogue that shows what the speaker is doing or feeling?

When a character speaks, their dialogue should be on the same line as their dialogue tag or action beat. When a different character speaks, start a new line. (It’s also often helpful to start a new line if they act or react — e.g. if they shake their head, even if they don’t actually speak.)

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How do you show action in dialogue?

Writing movement and action in dialogue: 6 tips

  1. Use background action to add tone and mood.
  2. Add movement to dialogue to keep the story moving.
  3. Use mid-dialogue actions for tense interruption.
  4. Reveal character relationships through movement and action.
  5. Add dramatic emphasis to characters’ emotions in a scene.

How do you break up dialogue with action?

To show an interruption of the spoken words, include an em dash inside the quotation marks, at the point where the dialogue is interrupted. “I knew you’d drop it.”

What is an action beat in dialogue?

Action beats are short descriptions that come before, between or just after dialogue.

How do you use dialogue correctly?

How to Format Dialogue in a Story

  1. Use Quotation Marks to Indicate Spoken Word. …
  2. Dialogue Tags Stay Outside the Quotation Marks. …
  3. Use a Separate Sentence for Actions That Happen Before or After the Dialogue. …
  4. Use Single Quotes When Quoting Something Within the Dialogue. …
  5. Use a New Paragraph to Indicate a New Speaker.