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  1. bumblebot

    bumblebot Senior Member

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    Checking on some speech tag rules

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by bumblebot, Mar 7, 2011.

    My least favorite part of writing :[ I have been trying to research speech tag use but I can't find a page that answers all my questions. If you know of one, I'd love to see it.

    1. What makes a speech tag a speech tag? Is it just that it directly follows dialogue, or does it have to have a speech-related verb in it like asked, said, repeated, etc.? The latter is how I have been using it but I am not sure. I have multiple lines in my story that skip the 'he said', 'she said' parts and move right along to what the character is doing while they are speaking. Example:

    "Yes, I guess that's right." He realized they had somehow changed directions.

    Is that correct?

    2. Do you keep speech tags lowercase even if the dialogue ends with a question mark or exclamation points? When that same character picks up their dialogue, is it capitalized? Example:

    "Why me?" he asked, trying to close the door. "What if I don't want to go?"

    How about if the dialogue is broken up by action but doesn't end in a question mark or exclamation point? Example:

    "Sorry, I can't go," he said, searching for an excuse, "My cat needs to be fed."

    What if I don't put a speech tag between the broken-up dialogue, would it look like this:

    "Sorry, I can't go." He searched for an excuse. "My cat needs to be fed."

    And just to check, 'he paused' doesn't count as a speech tag, right?
     
  2. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    I wouldn't worry about whether a phrase should be called a tag, or not. Just look at the sentence you are writing.

    "Why me?" he asked, trying to close the door. "What if I don't want to go?"

    That's correct.

    "Sorry, I can't go," he said, searching for an excuse, "My cat needs to be fed."

    This is not correct. Since you used a comma after excuse instead of a full stop, the 'M' in "my" should be lower case. The entire thing can be written correctly in a couple of ways;
    "Sorry, I can't go," he said, searching for an excuse. "My cat needs to be fed."
    "Sorry, I can't go," he said, searching for an excuse, "my cat needs to be fed."

    "Sorry, I can't go." He searched for an excuse. "My cat needs to be fed."

    This works too.

    As far as 'he paused' goes, don't worry about what it is called, worry about the sentence the words are in.

    "Bob, take a look at this." He paused, adjusted the focus on the microscope, and then continued, "Have you ever seen anything like that?"

    "Margie, I want to tell you something about ..." he paused, the name sticking in his throat, " ... about Zelda."
     
  3. bumblebot

    bumblebot Senior Member

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    Pretty much answered all my questions, thank you.
     
  4. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes...

    yes... and they're usually called 'dialog tags'...

    yes, if it's a new sentence... no, if it's a continuation of the same sentence...

    wrong... if 'my' is still part of the same sentence, it must be in lower case...

    that's done correctly...

    no, it doesn't, because you can't 'pause' words... it would be a separate sentence, telling us that the speaker isn't speaking...
     
  5. bumblebot

    bumblebot Senior Member

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    That explains why I wasn't having much luck searching for info on them. Thanks for the help!
     
  6. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    glad it helped...

    'dialog tags' are more formally called dialog 'attribution'...
     

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