Tagless

Hey guys, long time no speak. But that is really neither here nor there and instead we shall scarper on to today’s topic.

In the endless quest for eminently readable prose, the tweak and rewrite and polish and shine of my manuscripts continues on. One thing I have discovered as I plod along is the judicious use of tags on dialogue, or in fact the complete removal of them.

Prose appears stronger without “he said, she said” appearing, and I remember a tutor of mine abhorring descriptive tags, such as “he said happily, she said mistily”. A reader should be able to tell from what the character said, from the reaction of the character they are saying it to, what emotion is flavouring the words.

Take, for example, the following:

“I don’t care,” he told her impatiently. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”

His harsh words hit her like a lash. Squaring her shoulders, she tilted her chin, refusing to allow him to see how his words had torn her to shreds.

Vs

“I don’t care. Can’t you see I’m busy?”

His harsh words hit her like a lash. Squaring her shoulders, she tilted her chin, refusing to allow him to see how his words had torn her to shreds.

The second version is more immediate, as we only know how to react when the heroine shows us how she reacts. The first version dilutes the impact of her reaction.

Importantly, there is no contrast between what the reader imagines and what the author intended. Impatient could have so many meanings – it could be exasperated, nasty, good-natured, etc. The second version removes all doubt about how the reader is supposed to feel.

Thus, if you can, try to exclude tags. See if your writing is sharper. I know mine is!

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