Speech tags are the bits outside of the dialogue which tell the reader who is speaking. and the manner in which the dialogue is delivered. They can appear before or after the text, or in between:
Often, as in the examples above, the speech tag is unnecessary. ‘Hello, my name is Peter.’ is sufficient because the quote marks indicate someone is speaking, and what he says indicates he is a he!
What’s the purpose of a speech tag, if included?
Is there a better device?
Yes! Make the spoken words work. Then, instead of a speech tag, have the next sentence describe the action.
SPEECH TAG TIPS!
#1 One way of introducing the name of a character is to have someone else use it in dialogue.
‘Hello, Mary. Lovely to see you.’
#2 Dialogue can be used to show the relationship between two characters.
‘Hi, Sis! How are you?’
#3 Try using no speech tag at all. Instead, let the next sentence describe the action that accompanies or follows the dialogue.
#4 Vary the positioning of speech tags. For character A, you might only use speech tags after the dialogue. For character B, you might have an action sentence first, followed by their dialogue. This might create tension between them: B is in charge and A is responding to B’s behaviour? Or vice versa?
#1 Avoid using adverbs in speech tags. Instead, make the words do the work / convey the mood.
#2 Avoid using a speech tag which tells the reader something he/she already knows.
‘You do that one more time and you’ll be grounded,’ Mum threatened.
The words show it’s a threat! Change the verb. The speech tag could become redundant, if we know it’s Mum who is talking. That’s easily establish by having the reminder response ‘But, Mum …’
#3 Only use a tag if leaving it out makes a difference.
Even so, a clever reply makes the tag redundant.