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Dialogue Tags

By
Mignon Fogarty,

dialogue tags

The name comes first in dialogue tags.

Let’s say you’re writing a brilliant piece of dialogue for your novel: “The zombie was wearing a pink carnation.” Is it said Squiggly? or Squiggly said?

I always have to look that up. It’s a ubiquitous thing. You probably see dialogue or a quotation in a news story 100 times a day, but for my brain, it’s background noise. It doesn’t register.

Here's the answer: The name comes first in dialogue tags.

“The zombie was wearing a pink carnation,” Squiggly said. 

‘He Said’ or ‘Said He’?

It’s the same for pronouns. The pronoun comes first too.

“The zombie was wearing a pink carnation,” he said.

From now on, I’ll try to remember that who said it is the important part, so it comes first, and you can remember it that way too. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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