This article features an ultimate list of dialogue tag examples you can use in your writing. “Said” is the word most often used as a dialogue tag. However, there are many other words you can use to add more spice and variety to your writing.
What is a Dialogue Tag?
A dialogue tag is a word or phrase that indicates the tone of voice used by the speaker. It’s usually placed at the end of a dialogue line and followed by a punctuation mark such as an exclamation point, comma, colon, semicolon, or period. Some writers use an ellipsis for their dialogue tags while some use a dash. In an email, a dialogue tag can used in the subject line for tagging purposes.
- “I can’t believe it,” she said.
- She spoke in a shocked tone.
- She exclaimed, “I cannot believe it.”
- She gasped, “I can’t believe it!”
How to Use Dialogue Tags?
You must always remember that the dialogue tag is a support for the dialogue that has to blend with it. It’s not a “stand-alone” element, but rather an addition to the mainline.
A dialogue tag must be placed where it won’t make readers confused about who’s talking. It’s important to note that you should never start a dialogue line with “he said” or “she said.” The only exception for this is when you’re using “said” as both dialogue” sentences so if you find yourself describing what your character is doing, then you should consider rephrasing or changing it.
- “I’m coming, I’m coming,” he said as he walked towards the door.
- He shouted, “I’m coming, I’m coming.” as he walked towards the door.
Notice that in this example, it’s clear who’s talking because of the narrative tag.
You must also be sure that you are using the right tone of voice for your dialogue tag. There are some words that can’t immediately indicate whether a dialogue is said in an angry, irritated, or agitated tone so you have to consider adding more clues to guide readers.
You also have to remember never to use adverbial phrases at the beginning of a dialogue tag as it can make your writing feel clunky. The same thing goes with any other unnecessary words. In the example below, the dialogue tag is split from its dialogue which makes it hard to follow:
- “Nice to meet you,” she said, holding out her hand.
- She held out her hand and said, “Nice to meet you.”
- She smiled. “Nice to meet you.”
The word “said” is the most common dialogue tag but there are other words that can be used as well. You can use any of the following synonyms instead of “said” if it better fits with your character’s tone of voice or the mood of the story.
- Whispered softly/gently/calmly
- Replied calmly
Keep in mind that there are some forms of dialogue like stage plays, TV shows, and movies where you never use dialogue tags as it’s already clear who is talking by looking at the character’s face, movement, and actions.
- “I love you,” she said softly as she looked into his eyes.
- “I love you.” She gazed into his eyes and smiled.
While writing dialogue or a prose, it’s important to create a balanced rhythm between dialogue and narrative. Readers want dialogue to be short, snappy and engaging so avoid using too many descriptions at the beginning of a line as this makes it harder for readers to understand who is talking. The use of action beats or action tags in between dialogue lines can help in this.
Complete list of dialogue tags examples using other words for “said”
This detailed list is divided into three sections. In the first part, you’ll find words that are often used in fiction writing, especially for novels. The second one features dialogue tags specific to different types of media while the third section offers more examples of non-dialogue tags that can be used instead of “said.”
100 Dialogue tags that are often used in fiction writing, with examples
Example: “I beg to differ,” he argued.
Example: “I’m sorry,” she blurted out.
Example: “Let me tell you the story of how I caught this fish,” he boasted.
Example: “I used to be a great athlete in my high school days,” he bragged.
- Called out
Example: “I’m not leaving until you let me see her,” he called out.
Example: “One, two, three, four,” he chanted.
- Chuckled/chuckled merrily/happily/joyfully
Example: He chuckled softly. – She laughed happily. – He laughed joyfully.
Example: She cooed softly. – She cooed to the baby in her arms.
Example: He cried out, “Stop!”
- Demanded/Asked angrily
Examples: “What were you thinking?” he demanded. – “Where is she?” he asked angrily.
Example: She ejaculated the words. – The words escaped her lips as an accusation.
Example: She gasped in surprise
- They giggled softly.
- She giggled nervously.
- He groaned in frustration.
- He groaned, “Oh God.”
Example: He growled, “You stupid idiot.”
- Grumbled/grumbled angrily/sullenly/testily
- He took a deep breath.
- He grumbled impatiently.
- She grumbled under her breath.
Example: She mused, “I wonder what happened.”
- She muttered.
- He murmured politely.
- She murmured something in his ear under her breath.
- Said angrily/(angrily)
Example: He said fiercely. – He said angrily.
- He sighed, “It’s over.”
- She sighed dreamily.
- She snapped at him.
- He snarled in reply.
- He sneered in disapproval.
- She sneered, “You look ridiculous.”
Example: She sputtered, “I didn’t mean to.”
- Her voice rose into a squeal.
- She squealed in delight. – She yelped in pain.
- She stammered nervously.
- He stuttered out the words.
- He whispered into her ear.
- She murmured softly.
- He yelled angrily.
- He yelled at the top of his lungs.
100 Dialogue tags that are specific to different media forms, with examples
Aged/aged dramatically/years in 10 seconds
Example: “I can’t believe you’re here,” he gasped, aged years in 10 seconds.
Announced/announced dramatically/dramatic pause/(pause)
Example: He paused and announced dramatically, “There’s something I have to tell you.”
- The lion bared its teeth and howled ferociously.
- The coach bellowed, “You’re out of the game!”
Example: He boasted his wealth and influence.
- The witch cackled maniacally.
- She cackled when she saw the look on his face.
- The woman cried out in pain.
- The king cried out, “Enough!”
- He whispered her name and it echoed through her soul.
- She repeated his words slowly, “You don’t love me anymore?”
- He sighed and began to explain.
- They exchanged grim glances, each one silently explaining the unexplainable.
- He groaned in frustration.
- She moaned loudly when she felt his hands on her body.
- The injured man groaned but didn’t open his eyes.
- He grumbled to himself about the long drive.
- They murmured quietly among themselves.
- The baby giggled and gurgled happily.
- He chuckled and gurgled at the same time, making his wife laugh out loud.
- He chuckled softly. – He smiled and gurgled with pleasure.
- The dog howled at the moon in the night sky.
- The mob howled outside the house of the innocent man.
- She hummed a familiar tune softly to herself.
- He played the song through, humming along.
- She laughed and replied, “I can’t argue with that.”
- They both laughed until their sides ached.
- The prince laughed at his foolish brother.
Laughed out loud
- She laughed out loud when she saw the joke in the magazine.
- He shook with laughter until he was red in the face.
- He murmured something into the air.
- She whispered quietly to herself.
- They murmured prayers for their lives.
- She paused and began to muse about a happy memory from her childhood.
- He mused silently for a moment before speaking again.
- He muttered a curse under his breath when she spoke to him sharply.
- He muttered his answer resentfully, not looking at her.
- She panted in her sleep.
- He took a breath and continued to run towards the horizon.
The house was plagued by mice in the walls.
- She played a sad melody on her violin.
- He played the song through, playing all of the right notes perfectly.
- He questioned her about what she had seen in the woods.
- What was she trying to do by questioning him like that?
- Her singing quieted the baby down.
- He soothed her frazzled nerves with a gentle voice and caring touch.
Rambled/ramble/(talk or speak fast without stopping)/(talks or speaks fast without stopping)
- He rambled on about the people in his life until she stopped him.
- She rambled on about her day before turning in for the night.
- He replied with a shrug, “I don’t know.”
- She replied to his unasked question.
- The man shouted over the loud music.
- The baby screamed and cried when he saw a strange dog in front of his house.
- She shouted at him to get out of her way.
Sighed/sigh/(breathe out)/(breaths out)
- She sighed and nodded, making her husband smile.
- She sighed loudly and lay down on the bed, exhausted from the day’s work.
- He spoke calmly and confidently about what needed to be done next.
- He said something under his breath.
- She spoke up and said that she was the only one who could help him.
Stammered/stammer/(be unsure of what to say next)/(is unsure of what to say next)
- He stammered out a reply.
- She was stammering with shock and disbelief.
- The man taunted his opponent to get a reaction from him.
- He taunted the other man about his lack of success with women.
Whispered/(talk or speak quietly)/(talk or speak in an undertone)
- She whispered to herself and started to cry quietly.
- They talked in an undertone about the events that had happened.
Wailed/(cry or weep loudly)
- She wailed at his feet, begging him to come back to her.
- He wailed in agony after he heard about what happened to his best friend.
- He yelled for his mother after he saw the man running towards him with a gun.
- She yells at her daughter when she smashes another vase.
- He yelled in his sleep and woke up the whole household.
List of Non-dialogue tags that can be used instead of “said.”
1. General: murmured, exclaimed, babbled, cried, protested.
2. Feelings: shrieked, whined.
3. Sound: hissed, sobbed.
4. Physical Actions: blundered into him/her/it/them/one; collapsed on…; muttered to…; glanced at…; smiled at…; turned to…; pressed against …; screamed at…; swung around to…; pointed at …; leaped up/down/upwards/downward etc.
5. Emotions: sighed in relief, laughed scornfully, grinned darkly, cried bitterly.
6. Place or Thing: whispered behind his hand, murmured something soft and bitter to herself under her breath, muttered an oath under his breath,
7. Time: muttered, grumbled, rasped, gibbered.
8. Thoughts/Images: He thought of the day he had met her and smiled to himself.
9. Physical Sensations: The pain throbbed in his stomach like a pulse beat.
10. Actions or Movements: He nodded; rose; shook his head; leaned forward…
11. Relationships/Character Traits: She looked at him with loathing in her eyes.
12. Other Phrases (once again the list is very long): “He lowered his voice to a whisper”/”He dropped his voice to a whisper”/”He raised his voice to a yell”/”She threw her head back and laughed with delight”/”Her eyes blazed with anger”/”His face was etched with pain as he stumbled toward home.”
Adverbs used as dialogue tags without the word “said”
1. Whispered: She whispered softly, “What do you think of the new girl?”
2. Murmured: He murmured something under his breath.
3. Yelled: She yelled at me and I didn’t know what to say.
4. Shouted: He shouted over the loud noises we were making.
5. Sniffed: Nathan sniffled and rubbed his nose with the back of his hand.
6. Cried: “No!” she cried, “Please don’t do this.”
7. Babbled: He babbled incoherently.
8. Giggled: She giggled nervously.
9. Sighed: He sighed at the mention of her name.
10. Roared: He roared with laughter when he saw me jump in fright.
11. Sobbed: He sobbed into his handkerchief, unable to continue talking about it anymore.
12. Yelled: She yelled, “Get out!”
13. Gasped: He gasped and his eyes opened wide in fear.
14. Cackled: The witch cackled at her misery and pain, saying that she deserved it all for being such a wretched girl.
15. Began: She began to cry when I said my father died.
16. Chirped: She chirped, “I hope you like it!” and handed me a small box tied with a red ribbon.
17. Giggled: She giggled nervously and looked away from him, focusing her eyes on the carpeted ground instead of his handsome face.
18. Hissed: He hissed, “That’s not what I meant!”
19. Cried: She cried out in despair, “Why?”
20. Screamed: They screamed and ran away from her as far as possible.
21. Rasped: He rasped for air and tried to sit up, but only managed to lean on his elbows.
22. Whined: She whined for him to stay with her forever.
23. Huffed: He huffed at my suggestion of staying home tonight instead of going out with friends.
24. Whispered: She whispered, “Don’t tell anyone but I think you’re really nice.”
25. Gasped: He gasped and waved his hands around frantically, trying to find the source of the water leak.
15 tips to use “said” and its synonyms well
1. Use the tag “said” as often as possible to maintain credibility and clarity, especially in emotional scenes.
2. The words that replace said should be carefully selected to avoid disrupting the narrative flow or making dialogue seem melodramatic or awkward.
3. Use dialogue tags to establish who is speaking and how they sound (angrily, hoarsely, nervously).
4. Use of dialogue tags must create a distinction between two characters speaking.
5. Avoid using said and its synonyms too often (when possible). If you use the same word over and over again it will become annoying and distracting to readers. While some say that “said” is invisible and unremarkable, others argue that it should be used as often as possible to maintain clarity; to avoid disrupting the narrative flow; and because it makes for good writing.
6. Use “said” in combination with adverbs like whispered, shouted, or snapped (look below for more info on each) when you want to emphasize how something is said.
7. Use “replied” when you want to indicate that dialogue is being quoted.
8. Use “exclaimed,” “shouted,” and “yelled” when you really need the reader to notice that dialogue has been said in an exaggerated or emphatic way, but try not to overdo it with these tags because they will lose their power.
9. Use “whispered” and “murmured” when someone is speaking in a voice that is too quiet to hear, but use these tags sparingly because they really only work when not many characters are around or if there’s some kind of secret being shared.
10. Use the tag “asked” when a direct question is being posed to someone who does not have the floor in dialogue.
11. There’s no need to tell readers that a character “sighed,” “muttered,” or “replied” because these actions are implied by the words they use and so they can be safely left out of dialogue tags unless you want to emphasize how something is said or shared.
12. Use “chuckled” and “giggled” when you want dialogue to seem awkward.
13. Use “began” and “continued” when a character has begun speaking, but keep in mind that these verbs do not always work because they’re easily confused with dialogue tags that indicate who is talking. For example, if a character says “Well…” and then another character continues that thought with “I don’t know,” the reader might assume it was the first character who said “Well.”
14. Use “asked” when a direct question is being posed to someone who does not have the floor in dialogue.
15. If there are many characters involved in dialogue, avoid using “replied” unless you make it clear whose turn it is to speak next, or use said with the name of whoever has the floor.
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