Friday, June 1, 2012

Effective Dialogue Tags by Ann Montclair

I have a problem. I like dialogue tags. Why simply “he said,” “she said,” when he can “shout,” “aver,” “repudiate” or “concur”?

My editor taught me this simple lesson. The more complicated the dialogue tag, the more the author is telling not showing. In fact, she believes no dialogue tag is the best dialogue tag. It should be clear from what is being said who is saying it and how.

‘“I don’t care about you,” he frostily declared before exiting the room.’ is better as ‘”I don’t care about you.” His shoulders rose as he inhaled sharply, turned his back, and strode out the door.’

The first way tells, and the second way shows. Big improvement, huh?

I love big, fancy, complicated words. Being a professor, they are my cache, my favorite currency. But if my reader needs a dictionary to read my book, I’ve failed. I can expound in the classroom, but in my novels, I have to be clear, concise, and evoke emotion. And since frustration is not what I’m after, the fancy dialogue tags had to go.

If you read my newest book, you’ll see I’ve learned her lesson…well, almost learned it anyway. I’m a work in progress, and I hope as time goes by, my writing and my stories get better and better.

Ann’s latest book is One Wet Summer

Maura Fields loves her uncomplicated, independent, single life, but things quickly change when a summer vacation opens the door to an unexpected world of passion and desire. Wealthy Savannah hotelier Ben Driscoll had his playboy lifestyle upended when his ex-wife died, entrusting him to care for their daughter—a child he sequesters and vows to protect from future heartache and disappointment. Can the wall Ben has built around his heart withstand the assault from the intriguing, beguiling Maura, or will it crumble, leaving him vulnerable to the undeniable attraction and unbridled need to make her his own?

One Wet Summer is available at--

Musa Publishing


All Romance ebooks

Please visit her at



Ann, thanks again for taking time out to visit my blog today, I absolutely love your discussion on dialogue tages! Great tips from a great author :)   Can wait to read One Wet Summer!


  1. Thanks for hosting me, Mandi! Happy June. (Can you believe it??) :)

    1. Anytime Ann, love your writing. I've had had a crit partner ask ehy I use dialogue tags so much, well, because I like the :)

  2. Congrats on the new release and your upcoming releases!
    I read your first book, The Billionaire's Bauble and am sure this will be as well written and enjoyable.

    The dreaded dialogue tags can really bog the story down and like you, I am working on them in an attempt to show rather than tell. Sometimes you just have to put one though to keep things moving. But agree. Less is best.

    1. Thanks for stopping B.J. I agree, less is more, :)

    2. You have a pretty good handle on effective tags, BJ. You rarely use any, and that's the best way to go.

  3. Hi Ann and Mandi,

    Good post, Ann. Dialog tags can be tricky. So many things to keep in mind when self editing. Best of luck with One Wet Summer. It sounds great!

  4. Thanks for stopping Callie, I agree, there's a lot to keep in mind when editing

  5. Hi Ann.
    It's so much fun to find those big words unfortunately not all readers want to expand their base vocabulary, LOL.

  6. Thanks Bev, it's difficult sometimes to keep variation in our writing and not make our readers have to pull out a dictionary :)

  7. Glad to have found you here Mandi!!

  8. Thank you for the great comments on dialogue tags!!