In a novel, for example, imagine the following sentence:

"I like chowder", Helen said.

What I'm looking for is the highlighted part. There are many different ways that particular sentence can be modified, eg:

  • Helen said, "I like chowder"
  • "I like", Helen said, "chowder".
  • "I like chowder" (the author doesn't tell us Helen said it, but we figure it out from surrounding context).
  • Helen jumped from her seat. "I like chowder!" (here again it is implied that Helen was the speaker, but the author doesn't say it directly).
  • Helen chimed in, saying that she liked chowder.

In my experience, the variations in the way the speaker is identified can have a huge influence on the overall quality of a novel. Is there a term, either for this quality of style, or for the specific part of the sentence wherein the speaker is identified?

Edit: I found a possible duplicate here, but I'm not sure if it fully applies, as that appears to be reference specifically towards a screenplay or something else meant to be performed. I more interested in the term as it is used in prose as a descriptive phrase. Might be the same word. If so, feel free to flag as duplicate.

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    Not a duplicate. Mar 25, 2022 at 18:39
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    There are terms for the different strings, whichever format they appear in. The quote is the quote. The identifying tag (where present) is known as the speech tag and includes a quote verb or quotative verb (often say, but modern ones include smile, frown). This part of the answer is certainly addressing a duplicate (Is there a name for the words used after dialogue?) Question (1), 'Is there a term for this quality of style?' may be better asked on Writing.SE. Mar 25, 2022 at 19:02
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    NB Because report structures are different from quote structures, using the term 'reporting clause' for a speech tag (subject + quotative verb) is unhelpful and best avoided. And as some verbs ('say', 'ask' for instance) may be used in both report and quote structures, it is better to restrict the use of 'reporting verb' say for a usage in a report structure. Mar 25, 2022 at 19:54
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    Louise Harnby has written what seems an excellent article on how to handle speech tags (aka dialogue tags) for best effect in writing fiction: when to front them, when to intersperse them with dialogue, when to omit them ... but this is writing/style advice, not on-topic at ELU. Mar 25, 2022 at 19:54
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    @EdwinAshworth - appears I may be off topic with part of my question Thanks for the links.
    – dgo
    Mar 25, 2022 at 22:06

1 Answer 1


I was introduced to them as speech tags and name tags, in a high-school English class 14 years ago. Semantics have become much more concrete, and formalized, due to the advent of the internet, and sites like the one your reading this on.

The term that I would say is most correct would likely have to be "dialogue tags", but if you were to use any of the other two mentioned in the opening of this excerpt, other writers would know what it is your referring to.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Mar 28, 2022 at 0:31
  • That you very much. After reading @EdwinAsworth’s comments above, I did some research, and this is indeed what I was after
    – dgo
    Mar 28, 2022 at 3:18
  • Nice answer. Did not know that. PLEASE! do not let "invent" become a new word or usage in our groaning meta-vocabulary.
    – Elliot
    Mar 28, 2022 at 3:27
  • @Elliot Oh really, invent is frowned upon?
    – JΛYDΞV
    Mar 28, 2022 at 4:11
  • Please don't re-answer clear duplicates. It's against the spirit of the site, increasing bloat and making searches more tedious. 'Speech tags' has already appeared as an answer on ELU, and the synonym 'dialogue tags' is mentioned above. Mar 28, 2022 at 11:18

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