“Avoid redundancy”, she says. One way to tighten up your manuscript

One of my missions as an editor is to remove dialogue tags whenever possible.  Stop and think about it…if you’re using quotation marks to indicate dialogue, you’re indicating that a person is talking.  So…why do you feel the need to add: he said, they answered, she replied?  As long as it is easy to tell which character is speaking, a dialogue tag is unnecessary, and you can trim countless wasted words from your story.  The action can show who is talking, and a new line of dialogue indicates a different character is speaking.

e.g.  “I can’t do that,” she whispered

should be:  “I can’t do that.”  He could barely hear her.

e.g.  “The dog is getting away,” he exclaimed, grabbing a leash and running through the gate.

should be:  “The dog is getting away!”  He grabbed a leash and ran through the gate in hot pursuit.

Other examples that can clarify when to use dialogue tags can be found at these links:





4 responses to ““Avoid redundancy”, she says. One way to tighten up your manuscript

  1. Thanks ELF! I can tell you from experience, that removing so many tags has helped the flow of my writing.

  2. This taught me a lot. Still I think the “she whispered” would be preferable if a sense of intimacy was being expressed.

  3. True, Frank…but the context of the rest of the story will tell you if they are moving toward intimacy or she is fearful or shy without the need for a dialogue tag. Thanks for commenting. (and thank you as well, Stanalei and Annette, for taking the time to visit and comment)

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