DO NOT HISS “I LOVE YOU” – How to deal with dialogue tags

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
DO NOT HISS "I LOVE YOU" - How to deal with dialogue tags

These next few podcasts, we thought we should get all nitty-gritty with some quick grammar tips or style tips for people writing fiction.

It can help you nonfiction writers, too, we swear.

When you’re writing dialogue (people talking to each other), you’re going to want to follow these punctuation rules.

  • Use quotes.
  • Have the dialogue tag (who the speaker is, the he said/she asked) in the actual same paragraph as the dialogue.
  • Punctuate it all correctly. (That’s a lot of knowledge right there.)

But here’s the big one:

Don’t go screwing around with those dialogue tags, also known as speaker tags.

You want to keep it simple when it’s a dialogue tag.

“Said” and “asked” are your besties here. If you do anything else? You look like a crappy writer who is trying too hard and the tag becomes more attention-grabbing than the very important words your character said.

“I love you,” she said reads a lot differently than “I love you,” she murmured and bellowed and hissed.

That can be your intention, but you don’t want to keep doing it all the time.

Here look at it.

“I love you,” she murmured.

“I love you,” he cat-called.

“I know,” she bellowed.

He screamed, “Of course you do.”

“And what do you mean by that?” she enthused.

So, the other big thing to remember is this: You can’t sigh out or smile out words, so don’t use them for speaker tags. You can use them for dialogue beats, but that means you have to punctuate them differently.

“I love you,” she said. – Requires a comma after the word ‘you,’ and a lower-case S for ‘she.’

“I love you.” She sighed. – Requires a period after the word ‘you,’ and an upper-case S for ‘she.’

Oh, and romance and horror writers, we all love to make our characters hiss especially when our lovers are shapeshifters, but you can’t hiss out a bunch of words if there are no s-sounds.


Make sure your reader knows who is speaking by putting the dialogue tag next to the dialogue.


Only call attention to the things you want to call attention to.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!


Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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