• Rachel Paige

Action Beats and Dialogue Tags

These were mentioned in last week's post on formatting dialogue. Here's what they mean and what they look like.


Dialogue tags:

-tell you who is speaking

-are things like "he said" "she whispered" or "Dylan yelled"

-as mentioned last week, use a comma, exclamation mark, or question mark to end dialogue preceding these.

-always end them with a period

-place them outside the quotation marks


Dialogue tags part 2:

-avoid tags with words other than "said" (like exclaimed, shouted, called, promised)

-the words spoken should be strong enough to convey that information on its own

-avoid adverbs (said angrily, said sadly, etc.)

-again, if you need an adverb, the words spoken need to be stronger.

-adverbs may be used when the tone isn't obvious otherwise (see exercise 2)

-tags other than said may be used when necessary (I find quiet words need this most)

ex: whispered, said softly, said quietly

-shouted should be clear by the words, but may be used if said seems to contradict the quote.


Action beats:

-tell you what a character is doing.

-are things like "he sighed" "she looked away" or "Dylan clenched his fists"

-should be done by the same character who just spoke

-if the above is not true, use a new paragraph.

-do not end dialogue preceding these with a comma



Other tips:

-typically use one or the other. An action beat tells you who spoke just as well as a dialogue tag.

-use both is needed for clarity, like actions that happen simultaneously with speech

-when doing so, make them one sentence. "He said as he walked away" "She whispered while folding laundry"



Exercise 1:

Identify the following as dialogue tags or action beats:

"I love your backpack," I said.

"Thanks!" She grinned.

"Mine is falling apart." I took it off to show her.

"Probably because you have so many books," she said with a laugh.


Exercise 2:

Identify which of the following are unnecessary:

"I'm so mad!" I said angrily.

"Why?" she asked.

"You know why!" I shouted.

"Oh, that," she whispered. "I'm sorry."

"Of course you are," I said sarcastically.



Answers:

Exercise 1:

Dialogue tags:

I said.

Action beats:

She grinned

I took it off to show her.

Both:

She said with a laugh.


Exercise 2:

Unnecessary:

angrily (exclamation mark and words imply this)

shouted (again, exclamation mark implies)

Necessary:

she whispered (difficult to show in words)

sarcastically (taken seriously otherwise, but could be worded to flow better or show the character's thoughts)

Debatable:

she asked (some say it contradicts to use said. Others say using asked is redundant. Trust your gut)

12 views

Recent Posts

See All
  • Instagram Black Round
  • Pinterest - Black Circle

©2019 Rachel Paige. Created with Wix.com