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I'm not very sure if they count as dialogue tags.

Here's an example:

“Sorry if I made you uncomfortable,” Akiko suddenly said, placing her hand on my mine. “But you know me, I just keep going on and on after a few glasses.” She was talking about her answer to Mrs. Kondo's question. We were reminiscing about our past relationships, and she'd asked Akiko about her first love (she'd only had two in her life: me and her high school sweetheart). At first Akiko had been a bit reluctant to answer, however, as the cocktails flowed, she became more and more enthusiastic. She talked about everything; the places they had been, the moments they had shared, the things they had enjoyed doing together.

“Don't worry. I was cool with it.” Which was truth; I hadn't actually minded.

Akiko heaved a sigh. “What a relief. After I was done, all I could think of was how you were feeling. I felt so guilty, so insensitive. I really thought I'd hurt you. I'm so glad I didn't.”

Should I write this:

“Don't worry," I said. "I was cool with it.” Which was truth; I hadn't actually minded.

Or this:

“Don't worry. I was cool with it,” I said. Which was truth; I hadn't actually minded.

To make the dialogue less confusing? Or is it redundant?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Dialog tags such as "Alexandro Chen wrote" are always optional when there is some other unambiguous indicator as to whom spoke. For the line in question:

“Don't worry. I was cool with it.” Which was truth; I hadn't actually minded.

There is no way that, even out of context, to attribute the quote to anyone but the narrator. And in prose, your context can often entirely omit the need for even an imferred attribution. Consider:

"Can I take your order?" she asked with a bored drawl.

I answered without looking at the menu. "A cheeseburger and fries, please."

"We stopped selling fries. See the menu?"

"Oh. Well, just the cheeseburger then."

While I technically could add "I said" and "she said" lines in the 3rd and 4th paragraphs, they're largely superfluous and would make what is already a droll passage even worse.

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You lack tags not just where you bolded out.

“Sorry if I made you uncomfortable,” Akiko suddenly said, placing her hand on my mine. “But you know me, I just keep going on and on after a few glasses.” [1] She was talking about her answer to Mrs. Kondo's question. We were reminiscing about our past relationships, and she'd asked Akiko[2] about her [3] first love (she'd only had two in her life: me and her high school sweetheart).

First let's get through smaller offenders.

[2] Garden path. "Akiko" is the default "she" (from just after [1]).

[3] The next "her" and its following "she'd" becomes entirely ambiguous as you have mixed up the default 'she'[1] and the garden-pathed[2]. Akiko's first love or Mrs. Kondo's first love (and Akiko's knowledge about him/her)?

Now back to [1] which led me down the garden path all the way down to the next paragraph! she meant, not she was talking about! My first, natural parsing was that, (gears grinding of pace shift, as you've shown you're prone to at an earlier occasion), she kept on talking after the first, verbatim sentence you quoted, and you summarized what she said right now. Only as you mention the cocktails I'm making a slow double-take and understand your meaning of "was talking about" - as back-reference explaining the meaning of the first sentence (meant), not following activity (and she kept talking about...).

Only upon encountering your bolded paragraph and its tag I understand how long a garden path I've been led.

No, if you only make sure:

  • there are only two participants of the dialogue
  • any deviation from the natural dialogue are clearly tagged (party skipping their turn, or continuing after a pause)

you don't need any extra tags.

But if you change pace - introduce a paragraph that converts to several minutes of dialogue ("At first Akiko had been a bit reluctant to answer, however, as the cocktails flowed...") you must retag the sentences if you return to natural pace. Which would be the case here if not that this is the fake (garden path) meaning. In fact the sentences "Sorry if I made you uncomfortable" and "Don't worry" follow within seconds from each other, and as such need no extra tags. It's the "she talked about" followed by lengthy paragraph that misguides the reader into thinking there was some extra dialogue, that would require retag - except it does not, it just need rephrasing into something not misguiding!

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