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Dialogue tags

by Yan
(United States)

QUESTION:

Thanks so much for all the information on your website! You mentioned that we should try to use as few dialogue tags as possible, but when I do need to use them, for a conversation between a man and a woman, should I always use "she" and "he" throughout a scene, or mention their names in the tags occasionally to remind the readers? Is there a rule?

ANSWER:

The best advice is to use your own judgement, as there is no rule. Use dialogue tags as seldom as possible, and when you need one for clarity, use whatever name or pronoun sounds most natural in that position.

For example, in the sentences below, I have used names, but if Jason had already been identified, "he" would have worked as well. The same is true in the last sentence. As readers know that Jason has addressed Natalie, "she" would be clear.

Jason attempted to intercede.
"No, Natalie. I understand that it is painful for you, but it is not the end of the world."
"What do you know about it?"
"I know that you're strong and reliable, and that others depend on you."
"Yes," Natalie said. "You're right about that."

Better yet, you might write:

Jason attempted to intercede.
"No, Natalie. I understand that it is painful for you, but it is not the end of the world."
"What do you know about it?"
"I know that you're strong and reliable, and that others depend on you."
"Yes." She reached out and took his hand. "You're right about that."