In other words, is it strange/confusing to do this?

For the next few seconds, I watched Aiko read the letter with her lips agape---lips that steadily curled up into a smile. A contagious one. Because before realizing it, I found myself smiling too, enjoying a happiness that came from someone else's heart. It was my first time.

A first time that wouldn't last.

"Hey, Daichi." Kiyoshi tapped me on my shoulder.

As opposed of writing: "Hey, Daichi," Kiyoshi said, tapping me on my shoulder.

Why or why not?

5 Answers 5


The quotation marks themselves provide signal. By then tying the line of dialogue to an action in the same paragraph, it's clear that Kiyoshi is speaking. If anybody else were doing the speaking you'd need to say so, but that's not the case here.

Beginning writers sometimes make the mistake of attaching attribution -- he said, she asked, Bob mumbled, etc -- to every single piece of dialogue. Don't do that; they get in the way when not needed, and if you establish the context they won't be needed very much. (Occasionally you'll need one, especially if more than two people are speaking; I'm not saying to banish them entirely. But you don't have to use them liberally either.)


It's certainly not strange at all, and if you pick up any random novel and flip through it you'll see that dialog without attribution is used all the time.

The question as to whether it's confusing, however, is entirely situational.

It can be, particularly if you've have a lot of back and forth dialog without attribution. I've read novels where I've had to go back a paragraph or two in order to figure out who was saying something, which is never good.

However, in your example, "Hey, Daichi." Kiyoshi tapped me on my shoulder. while you've attributed the dialog through a clear linking action, I think you've gotten the order of events backwards in order to do so.

I don't think Kiyoshi would first speak to you and then tap you on the shoulder. I believe people tend to tap someone to get their attention and then talk, not tap after they've gotten your attention.

I believe there's a term for this, but it has escaped me. Regardless, make sure your linking actions make sense and are useful to the reader whether to orient them in space, help them better visualize what's going on, or to illustrate the mental state of a character.

When they are used simply as a he said/she said replacement they can interrupt the flow of a scene and your reader's connection to the story.


To answer your question: no it is not strange or confusing per say. I think understand what you are trying to achieve I'm just impressed by the way you've done it. It's not very clean amongst the foretelling etc.

1) You were watching somebody. 2) You became lost in your thoughts. 3) A third party brought you back to reality.

[Excuse my prose] Aiko read the letter with her lips agape---perfect lips that steadily curled up into a smile. A contagious smile emanating from a beautiful mouth. A smile that could warm the heart . . .

"Hey, Daichi." Kiyoshi tapped me on my shoulder. "Stop staring . . . and . . . close your mouth."


I'd go with a dialogue tag. Authors are advised to use simple dialogue tags such as "said" and "asked" There are plenty of authors who do not use tags. For me, it becomes confusing, especially when I listen to an audio book. I think you should make it clear to the reader who not only visually sees your work, but also listens to it.


It is slightly confusing, but in a good way. It gives the impression that the narrator's attention is captivated by Aiko and is interrupted by Kiyoshi. So for just an instant the narrator is slightly startled and confused, only realising it is Kiyoshi speaking with the tap on the shoulder bringing him down to Earth.

If you had

"Hey, Daishi", Kiyoshi said, tapping ....

you wouldn't have the same element of surprise, and the implication would be that the narrator was aware of Kiyoshi the whole time.

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