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Most Common Writing Mistakes: How Not To Use Speaker Tags and Action Beats


Writing a text is not limited to simply following grammatical rules; however, the abundance of mistakes significantly worsens the perception of the writing, distracts from the content, and ruins the author’s image.

In this article, I won’t dwell on the general and widespread grammatical errors but will focus on two means that facilitate the combination of narrative and rhythm of speech: speaker tags and the action beat. These simple writing techniques help significantly to develop characters, reveal their real thoughts and intentions, and to structure the dialogs held between them.

Tips On Speaker Tags Usage

The speaker tag is the most basic way to indicate a speaker. It usually consists of the speaker’s name or a pronoun (he, she, we, they) and the related verb (asked, said, whispered, etc.). Speaker tags make the literary work logical and cohesive. Obviously, the reader cannot distinguish speakers on the basis of their voice or manner of speech. The only option that is left is for an author to navigate the reader through the dialogue with the help of speaker tags.

For example: “They are so rude to their parents,” Monica whispered. Speaker Tags might seem quite simple to use, but there are a number of pitfalls you should be aware of.

Don’t Add Too Many Speaker Tags

There is no need to add “he/she said,” after every line in dialogue. It will be absolutely sufficient to mention the speaker every few lines to help the reader track the conversation. If the conversation is held between three or more characters, vary speaker tags and action beats. It will make your writing smooth and logical.

Don’t Try To Use All the Verbs in Your Speaker Tags

Give preference to regular, “said. It is a very neutral way to present a line. The other verbs, such as “whispered,” “shouted,” “proclaimed,” and modifiers like “calmly” or “nervously” add attitude and connotation to the conversation.

Use the Sufficient for the Context Amount of Speaker Tags

It is important that the reader understands who is talking. That is why always identify the speaker in complex dialogues and after the lengthy narratives.

Don’t Finish the Speaker’s Line With a Period

If the dialogue ends with a question or exclamation mark, finish it by simply adding a speaker tag. For all the rest lines, you should put a comma before the quote mark and add a speaker tag.

Tips On Action Beat Usage

Action beat is the description of gestures, moves, or even facial expressions in the flow of communication between characters. It is a short description that accompanies the character’s lines in the dialogue. Action beats help to explain their attitudes and feelings while also developing a character and sets the atmosphere.

It is written right after the speaker’s line to indicate that the person who speaks is the same one who performs the action.

For example: “I didn’t do this!” – shouted Mary and shut the door behind her – “I explained it like a hundred of times so far.”

You should follow 4 simple Guidelines to succeed in this means of building a text:

Don’t Use Action Beats and Speaker Tags Simultaneously

It will only overload the text and create a useless repetition. Between speaker tag and action beat, choose the latter, since it provides much more information and room for characterization.

Don’t Use Action Beats To Simply Identify the Speaker

It is what speaker tags are meant for. Use action beats in the cases when it is crucial to give some more information that will reveal emotions or feelings, attitudes, or intentions.

Don’t Go Too Far With the Action Beats’ Length

It is recommended not to use long action beats in the middle of the dialogue. It will only destroy the smooth flow of conversation and distract the reader from it.

Don’t Put a Comma After the Dialogue

If an action beat interrupts the dialogue, use hyphens to punctuate it from the flow of speech.

Lots of beginners in the writing craft don’t pay much attention to such nuances, which indeed affect the perception of the text dramatically. Knowing how to deal with different writing techniques will make you a real professional out of the crowd of just amateurs. The simple tips given in this article will help you to avoid numerous mistakes and take your writing skills to the new level.

As practice shows, it is very important to take into consideration all the details and rules during the writing; however, what is even more important is to be able to come back after finishing your writing and edit it. Don’t try to reread your text right away. Take a break, switch to some other activities, and get back to the text in a couple of hours or even days. It will help you look at your writing from a whole different perspective and come up with some more fresh ideas and thoughts.

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