Dialogue Tags

“It’s cold,” he said.
“Wear a coat,” she said.
“Okay, I’ll put one on,” he said.
“Be careful outside,” she said.

What do you think? Does that get you excited to read more? Is it interesting? Does it show emotion or variety? Not really.

Words like “said” are called Dialogue Tags. Dialogue is important in a story. It can give you an idea of how different characters think and feel and speak. But you don’t want to use the same tags over and over. There are lots of ways to mix it up and make it more interesting and more exciting.

“Yikes!” he shouted, as he thrust his fingers out the kitchen window and felt the snow falling onto them. “It’s cold outside!”

“Wear a coat when you go out,” his mom said, smiling, as she turned from the stove where she was making pancakes to look at the snow-covered trees outside the window.

“Okay, I’ll put one on,” he mumbled as he tied his scarf around his mouth and neck.

“Be careful outside!” his mom called from the kitchen.

How about that? Does it paint more of a picture for you. We still used “said” but we used other tags, too.

Dialogue tags can express:

  • volume (yelled, shouted, whispered, screamed, bellowed)
  • tone or pitch (shrieked, groaned, squeaked)
  • emotion (cried, sobbed, begged, rejoiced, exulted)

Here are some options for other dialogue tags than “said.”

  • Anger: Shouted, bellowed, yelled, snapped, cautioned, rebuked
  • Affection: Consoled, comforted, reassured, admired, soothed
  • Excitement: Shouted, yelled, babbled, gushed, exclaimed
  • Fear: Whispered, stuttered, stammered, gasped, urged, hissed, babbled, blurted
  • Determination: Declared, insisted, maintained, commanded
  • Happiness: Sighed, murmured, gushed, laughed
  • Sadness: Cried, mumbled, sobbed, sighed, lamented
  • Conflict: Jabbed, sneered, rebuked, hissed, scolded, demanded, threatened, insinuated, spat, glowered
  • Making up: Apologized, relented, agreed, reassured, placated, assented
  • Amusement: Teased, joked, laughed, chuckled, chortled, sniggered, tittered, guffawed, giggled, roared
  • Storytelling: Related, recounted, continued, emphasized, remembered, recalled, resumed, concluded


(LA 5, lesson 47)