The bane of our existence as writers.  Though perhaps they only run a close second to those pesky little adverbs.

Now, there are two types of dialogue tags I want to discuss.  The first being those annoying little non-said tags.

You know the ones.  I’ve a whole slew of words to use instead of “said” that I received in my 11th grade creative writing class.  I cringe to think about that now.  I’ve looked for the list, actually, but I can’t find it.  I think that’s a good thing.

But we know the drill.  Said disappears.  Readers don’t notice it.  I’m sure I’m guilty of far too many non-said dialogue tags.  I’ll catch those during one of these rounds of revisions.

On to non-said dialogue tags.

Here’s an example from my first novel, A Rose by Any Other Name.

“Emilia, it’s great to see you!” she heard from behind her as she was perusing the “New Fiction” section of the store.  She turned to find the store manager, Tom, standing there.  She returned his broad smile.
“You too, Tom.”
“Anything I can help you with today?” he asked.
“No, I’m just doing some birthday browsing,” she replied.
“Happy Birthday!” he exclaimed.  “We’ve got some new titles that just haven’t made it out onto the shelves yet today but they are supposed to be there.  I’ll go grab them for you.  Fiction and biography were always your favorite genres, right?”
“That’d be great, Tom,” she replied.  “I can’t believe you remembered that about me, too.”

See.  It’s awkward.  I know that.  But it seems that our English instructors have been steering us away from non-said tags for years.  It’s a bad habit we have to break.  I don’t necessarily know that this passage would be stronger without the non-said tags, but there must be a reason we’re being steered away from them now.

Is it just that they’ve been so overdone as to seem trite and banal?

Stay tuned on Thursday for a discussion of the other type of dialogue tag.  Action descriptors.  (Or so I’m calling them.)

By the by, I’ve a website now. Link is my name, below.