Saturday, September 20, 2008

Remove the Tags

After you’ve been married a while like I have, buying patterns emerge. If I find clothes I like on sale, I don’t wait for a special occasion. I just buy them. Sometimes, even when they’re not on sale.

It’s come to the point that so many new items travel into the house my husband can’t keep track of them any more.

However, there is one tip-off. If I leave the tags on, he almost always notices. Then I’m bound to hear a comment like, “Not another new whatever.” So I’ve learned it’s best to remove the tags to avoid notice. I need to do this very carefully, so as not to wreck the garment. Usually a scissors is the best instrument for this procedure. If I can’t find one, I’ve been known to use a set of nail clippers instead.

Good writers use the same approach. Whenever possible, they remove the tags.

What Is A Tag?

To remove one, you need to know what it is.
Tags are those little phrases that come after a quote, which read something like, he said, she said, he replied, she replied.

How Do I Get Rid of Them Without Wrecking the Manuscript?

If a reader can tell who is saying something without your using a tag, you can safely remove it by using the delete button or back spacing.

Better yet, don’t put a tag on in the first place. (This doesn’t work with clothes purchases, of course.)

One way to avoid the use of tags is to assign some action to the person who is speaking, either before or after the dialog, so it will make sense to the reader,

Such as:
Gary frowned at Missy. “Didn’t you just buy a new dress last week?”

I need to keep my tag, but is it the right one to use?

If you absolutely must keep your tag, another thing I wouldn’t recommend doing with clothes items, make sure it does not draw attention to itself. The best way to do this is by using common tag lines, such as he said, she said, not he shouted, she begged, etc.

Some authors can get by without using the common tag lines, but for the unsure, it’s best to follow the tried and true rules.

Okay, after writing this, I’m in the mood for buying more clothes.

Morgan Mandel, is the author of Two Wrongs, a Chicago area mystery, and Girl of My Dreams, a romantic comedy about a reality show contestant.


  1. I just love your posts, Morgan! Great tips, and sometimes a giggle thrown in. Must go Twitter about you.


  2. You can't go too long in a conversation without tags, or you'll lose the reader, but you'll be surprised how long you can go, especially if your characters are unique.

    Little snippets of action are a great way to identify the speaker without using "said." And to break up the back and forth between characters.

    Great information Morgan!

  3. Perfect timing! We were just talking about tags at my writers' group the other day, so I'm forwarding this information. Morgan, way to add interest to a topic that could have been boring. You are a woman of my own heart. Sigh, if only I had an unlimited clothing budget...

  4. Emma, put a picture of Mary Higgins Clark over your desk and read her autobiography. That'll inspire your clothing budget! LOL.

  5. I could use a Mary Higgins Clark or Nora Roberts picture by my desk! My clothing budget isn't what it used to be!

    Morgan Mandel

  6. Morgan,
    This is excellent advice. When I'm editing client work, I often remove tags and change things like "he expostulated" to "he said."

  7. Good, clear explanation and example, Morgan. And yes, we sometimes do need those tags to help keep us on track. But not as much as we might think. It is well worth a re-read looking for just such tag lines and deciding if they are needed to keep the identity of the speaker -- or can the reader tell by the dialogue.

    Now, speaking of tags--let's go shopping, and look for tags with 70% off on them!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...