I am writing a novel, and I am trying to find the right dialogue tags for identifying the character that is currently speaking. Here are some examples of two forms, and I am unable to decide which one is more appropriate:

  1. 'The cat is in the bag,' said James, closing the door behind him.
  2. 'The cat is in the bag,' James said, as he closed the door behind him.

Does it matter which form is used? Is it appropriate to use only one form throughout the entirety of the novel, or can both forms be used? Are there any more forms I can use to identify the character that is currently speaking?


1 Answer 1


Which form you use is entirely writer preference.

Neither 'said James' nor 'James said' is wrong. They are both grammatically correct, along with various other similar dialogue tags. Which one you use is determined by how you write, and especially what sounds better in the context of what you are writing.

For example, you may determine that 'James said' sounds more natural at one point, while 'said James' sounds better at another point. It is very common to use both these, and other, forms in the same piece of writing.

Another note: some writers will deliberately change tags during conversations, going back and forth between them simply to avoid repetition. If James is speaking with one person, you wouldn't want 'said James' repetitively after every other line.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.