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  • How to Format Dialogue: Examples and Writing Tips

dialogue in an essay

What Is a Dialogue and Its Types?

How to format dialogue in an essay, quotation marks and capitalization.

  • Punctuation

Reporting Verbs and Dialogue Tags

How to quote a dialogue in an essay correctly, effective tips on dialog writing, final thoughts.

Sometimes adding a dialogue to an essay is the right way to improve the paper and receive a higher grade. Dialogue is a great device to describe the situation, characters, or emotions. Yet often, wrong formatting may adversely impact your piece of writing. This is a tricky aspect of a dialogue writing process, as it has so many nuances. This guide  by Write My Essay 4 Me will help you learn how to format dialogue correctly and give a comprehensive list of writing, punctuation, and capitalization tips as well as perfect examples.

Dialogue is a written or spoken conversation between two or more people. It is widely incorporated in different written works, movies, and even computer games.

Writing dialogue in an essay will surely brighten up the story and captivate the reader. However, in terms of academic writing, it can be used in one essay type only; namely, the narrative essay. If you decide to add it to your essay, keep it realistic, clear, and to the point as well as format dialogue appropriately. If you are looking for a simple shortcut, you can pay to 'write my essay'. In case you want to find out useful tips, just keep on reading. 

There are two types of dialogues you should keep in mind:

  • Inner dialogues are used to convey what characters say to themselves or think.
  • Outer dialogues are even more wide-spread and happen between several characters in the story.

Quite often students receive assignments to analyze or reflect on stories or books. They might add quotations from these sources as evidence. At this point, it is important to understand the difference between a direct and indirect quote. Both use information from the original source, but the difference is in presentation.

Writing dialogue that is clear and informative requires the knowledge of a set of formatting rules. You should understand how to punctuate dialogue correctly to convey the meaning properly. Check the rules to learn how to write dialogue correctly to make your piece of writing flawless.


  • Use a comma after the dialogue tags that precedes direct speech.
  • Use colon to introduce direct speech that expresses a finished idea or sentence.
  • Do not add a comma after the direct quote that precedes a dialogue tag if the direct speech ends with its specific punctuation (i.e. full stop, exclamation or question marks, etc.).
  • In case the quoted speech is too long, divide it into multiple paragraphs. Use quotation marks appropriately. Opening quotation marks should be placed at the beginning of the speech. Closing quotation marks go at the very end of the direct speech. Avoid adding them after every paragraph.
  • Do not add any punctuation marks after the closing quotation marks if the direct speech ends with ellipsis. Ellipses (three dots) are used when you omit some information from the quote.
  • Em dashes that indicate abrupt ending of a dialogue go inside the quotation marks. Do not mix up em dashes and hyphens.
  • Avoid using either double or single quotes when you are introducing an indirect quote. It will be a mistake.

Dialogue tags or speech tags are short phrases that refer to the direct quote. They provide additional information on what the character is speaking about, help explain the emotion, and understand the context better. They can be placed either before, in the middle, or after the direct quotation. These short phrases are also part of indirect speech.

When using indirect quotes, students tend to overuse word say and tell to present every. However, there exist multiple words that could help describe the dialogue better. Check the list of useful verbs to use in your dialogue tangs and indirect quotes.

Students are always required to cite the sources they have used in paper. These can either be long or short direct quotes, dialogues, or paraphrase. Dialogue punctuation depends on the formatting style. The most common are MLA and APA. Although, there are other styles such as Chicago and ASA format . Let's have a look at the rules to punctuate dialogue and direct quotes correctly.

When quoting a dialogue in MLA format, you should pay attention to the following requirements.

  • When adding a direct quote, always mention the author and page number it is taken from.
  • If you add words to a quotation, add brackets around them to show they are not part of the original text. 
  • If the quotation is too long or contains irrelevant information for you add ellipsis to indicate some information was omitted.
  • When adding indirect quotes, do not add either double or single quotation marks.

Mind the following dialogue rules when formatting quotations in APA format.

  • If a character’s quote is short, put both the quote and the dialogue tags in the same line.
  • When adding a quote that is longer than 40 words, first, introduce the source and the author. Put a colon and add a quote as a new paragraph. The whole quote should be indented, and no quotation marks are needed. Mention the page quote is taken from in brackets just at the end of the quotation.
  • If a character’s words span more than one paragraph, put quotation marks at the beginning of paragraphs as well as at the end of the quote.
  • Indirect quote in APA does not require the use of quotation marks. The dialogue tags initiate the character’s part.
  • Use quotation marks at the beginning and end of each quotation.
  • Every quote starts from a new line of dialogue.
  • Separate direct speech from dialogue tags using corresponding punctuation marks.
  • Use different placing of dialogue tags (before, in the middle, after a quote) to avoid repetitive structures.
  • Original direct speech punctuation goes within quotation marks.
  • Use different verbs in a dialogue tag.
  • Formatting dialogue in APA and MLA is different.
  • Differentiate between direct and indirect quotes.
  • Don’t add quotation marks if you paraphrase.
  • Use single quotation marks to add one direct quote within another.

We have a lot of useful blogs for our users. Read how to write an essay quickly  and follow all these tips. Use our examples for writing different kinds of tasks.

Writing dialogue is a time consuming process. It has numerous tricky rules. Now that you know all the peculiarities of dialogue writing, such as dialogue tags, em dashes, quotation marks, it will not be a challenge for you to write dialogue. However, if you are not sure you can do it the right way, you may try writing assistance. Professional writers will help you save time and receive high grades.

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How to Write a Dialogue in an Essay with Example

dialogue in the essay

This article will reveal all you need to know about how to write a dialogue, types of dialogues in an essay, and formatting . In addition, in this article, you will find several examples of English essay dialogue and dialogue between two characters.

What Is a Dialogue?

The definition of a dialogue is as simple as it gets. Dialogue is a conversation or discussion between two or more people in a book, play, or film. If you are wondering where the surprise part is coming in, here it is: it is not just any conversation. If you include a dialogue in an essay, it has to convey some kind of conflict, emotional tension, a surprising fact, or an interesting turn of events.

Dialogues in essays are not focused on mundane things because mundane things are just not interesting to read about.

There is a range of things NOT to include in your dialogue, such as:

  • Throat-clearing sentences – parts of dialogue that do not add to the plot, but simply take space
  • Rambling – this is the least relevant and interesting type of dialogue, which your readers are most likely to skip
  • Words like “um”, “hm”, “like”, “sorta”, “kinda” – while it is important to speak the language of your readers to engage with them, avoid making them feel like they listen to a discussion between two people on the street.
  • Profanities and slang – keep it classy instead of crassy.

  It is surely rare to hear people in real life speaking like characters in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, but this doesn’t mean dialogues shouldn’t be refined to sound realistic.

Types of Dialogues

While choosing how to convey the words of characters in an essay for the readers, you have two options: active and passive dialogue . Active dialogue includes quotes and quotation marks, while passive dialogue implies paraphrasing of the quotes and telling them from the narrator.

Examples of these types of dialogue are below:

1 Active dialogue example

Peter asked, “Joanna, can you take kids to your mother tonight?”

“Sure, I will drive them there as soon as they get back home from school,” she replied.

2 Passive dialogue example

Peter asked Joanna whether she would be able to take kids to her mother tonight. Joanna was exhausted by a long ride, however, agreed anyway, taking the chance to avoid the serious talk she needed to have with her husband.

From these short dialogues, we can see that active dialogue allows readers to imagine the situation much better, while passive dialogue can provide more details just by adding extra facts to the narration.

How to Put a Dialogue in an Essay?

how to put dialogue in an essay

The purpose of a dialogue in an essay is to create a more vivid picture for the audience. The functions of a dialogue in an essay include:

  • Providing extra information about characters
  • Unravel interesting or surprising plot twists and details about the story
  • Attract readers’ attention

If your dialogue meets at least one of these criteria, it is a good dialogue to put in an essay. In fact, dialogues can help you tell a lot of information about the story and characters in a relatively short abstract. Adding descriptions of how people say something or why they say it is the key to describing their own behavior.

How to Format a Dialogue

Now let’s move on to the most intriguing part of writing a dialogue – punctuation and formatting . When you stumble upon a dialogue in any narrative essay or text, punctuation might seem to have a lot of different styles, which is confusing.

Of course, common errors in English are still relevant here, but dialogues have evolved their own punctuation rules.

There are three simple steps you need to follow in order to format your dialogue correctly in an essay:

1 In a dialogue, commas, exclamation marks, and question marks are inside the quotation marks:

“How could you do this? Moving a couch across the room isn’t a job for a fourteen-year-old girl!” Diane’s mom yelled in despair. “These macaroons are just exquisite! I would love it if you would give me a recipe,” my aunt asked me. “This movie was so scary that I could barely look at the screen!” her son complained after watching Jaws.

2 Use commas to set off dialogue tags, such as “he said” or “she exclaimed”:

“Enough of this,” he said, “I am absolutely tired of repairing this car! I will rather save up and buy a new one.” “Pepsi has too much sugar in it, this is diabetes in a can,” the grandmother said in a sad voice. “I have been reading The New York Times for years now,”the teacher said. “This newspaper has never disappointed me.”

3 If your quotation is at the end of the sentence, put a period inside the quotation marks as well:

Uncle Joe frowned, scratched his forehead, and finally replied, “I have no idea why my car keys are in the fridge.” He then told her the biggest lie he could ever tell, “I never left the wet towel on the bathroom floor.” Sarah pointed at zebra and asked her father, “Daddy, I have never seen a black and white horse.”

Pay attention to the following: if one person’s speech takes more than one paragraph, use opening quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph, however, do not use closing marks till the end of the speech .

My new neighbor always seems to be the most enthusiastic to tell me about her perfumes. One day, I asked her, “How did you come to like and wear perfumes?” She replied, “I have always wondered about where perfumes came from. This huge industry has grown from our scent preferences, experience with different smells, and scent associations. Probably, this is connected to our evolution as species, where detecting specific smell would mean choosing safe food. “Until recently, I have never been wearing perfumes myself, but admired them from a distance. Now I have a small collection of fragrances. I have learned a lot about fragrance industry and notes used in perfumery.”

How to Write a Dialogue Between Two Characters

Now that you know all about the purpose of a dialogue in an essay as well as how to write it and use punctuation, learning how to write a dialogue between two characters will be a piece of cake.

The rules you should follow are:

  • Give your characters a setting . Just like in movies, mise-en-scene is often as important as the dialogue itself. Set the scene for the dialogue by briefly describing where and when the dialogue takes place. This will help your readers imagine the picture more vividly.
  • Keep it realistic . Unless it suits your essay style, there is no need to be smarty pants and write dialogues with words and scientific facts that are hard to understand for an average reader. While writing a dialogue, reread it several times and make sure it doesn’t make you think “nobody talks like that!”
  • Let the dialogue flow naturally . Put yourself into your characters’ shoes and imagine how you would react to something being said to you. This is how you will find the way for the dialogue to seem natural and flow seamlessly.
  • Don’t overuse it . While dialogue is a great tool for an essay, turning an essay into a play script with only quotes is another mistake you want to avoid.
  • Make your characters human . Add details about feelings and emotions into the dialogue, both from the narrator and from the dialogue itself. Let your audience understand the tone and mood of the dialogue.
  • Give the dialogue a purpose . By all means, discussion about whether a cake is tasty or not can be passionate, emotional, and tense altogether. However, this is not something to include in a dialogue. Your dialogue should have a purpose in the plot and affect the characters involved in it.
  • Make sure to indicate who is who . This might seem like a rookie mistake in writing a dialogue in an essay, however, it happens. Have you ever read a long dialogue where you couldn’t understand anymore who talks? If your dialogue in an essay is longer than 5-6 quotes, make sure to add narrator’s text that will clarify who says those lines.

In a dialogue between two characters, it is easy to do because the readers do not need to remember many names or attributes. To avoid repetitions, use “he” or “she”, or specific features and roles, such as family member name (aunt, uncle, grandmother, nephew, etc.), significant appearance characteristic (blonde girl, tall man, lady in red, etc.), and specific roles people have (student, cashier, sale associate, doctor, nurse, etc.). In case you use any of those, make sure that you mention these attributes earlier in the text to avoid confusion.

Following these tips will help you write a truly meaningful dialogue between two characters and help readers understand additional information about them, their mood, features, preferences, role in the story, and relationships between them.

English Essay Dialogue Example

John finally returned home after a long day at work. It was raining cats and dogs and his raincoat was soaked. He opened the door, entered his apartment, and put his bag on the floor. suddenly , his phone started ringing. John took it out of his pocket and picked up. “Dad, itl burned down… I am so sorry,” he heard his daughter’s sad voice. She was crying. “What are you talking about?! Jen, are you alright?” “Dad, your summer cottage, it burned down to the ground” she was clearly devastated. John asked, “How did this happen?” “Just an accident, dad. You must have left the fire in the fireplace,” Jen replied. At this moment, John sighed with relief, even though his daughter might have thought he was very upset by the loss. She had no clue that her father insured their summer cottage and now the word “accident” meant lining his pocket from insurance money for sure.

So, now you know everything you need to write a dialogue in your essay successfully! Still, I strongly recommend to consider whether you need it at all — even when tutors assign such a creative writing, they are very meticulous in its evaluation. Moreover, pay attention to editing — due to sophisticated punctuation, dialogues are a never-ending source of students’ errors.

Did you know that Homework Lab is a student task sharing platform? You can work on tasks on your own or ask professional Geeks for help. Join anytime, anywhere for free.

If you have any questions about dialogues unanswered, please share your comment — I will get back and resolve any issues you have 😎.

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How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

Dialogue is a spoken or written exchange between two or more people. The name comes from a Greek word διάλογος meaning “conversation”. The concept itself is very straightforward since everyone is having multiple conversations daily. However, it gets tricky when we try to convey dialogue in writing. You have to be very careful with punctuation and formatting, so as not to confuse your reader about who says what.

As a rule, dialogues aren’t present in the academic style, so they rarely can be found in college essays. However, there are some exceptions:

  • Reflective essays
  • Narrative essays
  • Creative writing assignments
  • Dialogue simulations used in Psychology, Business Management, and Education
  • Interview transcripts you append to your research papers

Other types of essays may also creatively include short exchange as a personal anecdote for a hook.

You can also quote the dialogues from literature and film pieces you analyze. If this is the case, you must keep the punctuation and formatting of the original and cite the source properly.

Whatever the case, it’s important to know how to write a dialogue in an essay properly.

How To Write Dialogue in an Essay (MLA style guide)

  • Each speaker gets new paragraph, however brief their line is
  • Dialogue tags are separated by commas
  • Punctuation of what is being said goes inside the quotation marks
  • If one of the characters breaks into a long speech (several paragraphs), you should use opening quotation marks at the beginning of every paragraph. Do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the very last paragraph of that speech.

Is Dialogue Formatting Any Different in APA?

The APA dialogue formatting recommendations are just the same as the ones suggested by the MLA guide. The differences between APA and MLA norms are very slight and visible the most in the citation styles.

The confusion between citation and the dialogue sometimes occurs because both involve someone’s reported speech incorporated into your own text with the help of quotations marks. However, these two are very different and it’s important to know how to tell them apart.

  • Is a representation of a conversation
  • A literary device that usually can be found in a story
  • Can be creatively used in narrative essays
  • Is a way to report information from a source word for word
  • Used to provide evidence or to support your claims
  • Routinely used in argumentative writing

If you are confused about anything to do with writing, formatting, or particular aspects of academic style, don’t hesitate to contact our professional paper writers for clarification and examples.

Writing Dialogue in an Essay

If you are sure that dialogue is appropriate for your essay, for example, you are writing a personal statement for your college admission and want to include the conversation you had with a friend, then it’s very important to get the formatting right. Here are the general rules of writing dialogue in an essay:

1. Single line:

- quotations before the sentence starts

- punctuation inside the quotes

“Haven’t you ever sent out the laundry?”

“Is it there?”

“It most certainly is.”

“Well, I guess I haven’t, then.”

(F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The beautiful and Damned”)

2. Single line + dialogue tag (she responded, he said, they bellowed, Jane whispered, etc.)

- quotations before the sentence

- dialogue line and a tag are parts of a single sentence, so the tag starts with lowercase word

“I can’t help thinking about what it will look like,” he answered.

“The garden?” asked Mary.

“The springtime,” he said.

(Frances Hodgson Burnett, “The Secret Garden”)

3. Tag + single line

- comma before quotes

- the first word of the spoken phrase is capitalized

Catherine explained: “Oh! As to that, Papa and Mamma were in no hurry at all. As long as she was happy, they would always be satisfied.”

(Jane Austen, “Northanger Abbey”)

4. Tag inside the line:

- comma/question mark/exclamation point at the end of the interrupted line

- lowercase first word of the tag

- quotations again before the rest of the line

“What’s the danger?” asked Pippin. “Will he shoot at us, and pour fire out of the windows; or can he put a spell on us from a distance?”

(J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Two Towers”)

5. If single line gets cut off:

- em dash inside quotes to signify the dialogue being cut off

- the next dialogue line follows normally

“A rebel!” repeated Henry. “Yes; you and papa had quarreled terribly, and you set both him and mamma, and Mrs. Pryor, and everybody, at defiance. You said he had insulted you – “

“He had insulted me,” interposed Shirley.

(Charlotte Bronte, “Shirley”)

6. If a person in a dialogue quotes someone:

- single quotation marks for the quote inside the line

“Silly how people go on ‘I don’t know the first thing about dialogue formatting’ but never do anything about it,” I concluded this guide.

Confused? No wonder! Dialogue formatting often follows the intricate logic that is difficult to grasp at once. We can help you with that! Our writers have mastered all the minute details of dialogue formatting and can translate even the most subtle aspects of any exchange into writing.

Elissa Smart

Elissa Smart

Elissa Smart is an omnipotent demiurge behind PaperHelp's blog. Driven by seething creativity, not only she helps students with particular research and writing requests, but also finds the energy to share her extensive expertise via blog posts. A Barclay College graduate, Elissa puts her BA in Psychology & Family Studies and MA in Transformational Leadership degrees to good use, being of benefit to readers who are willing to learn from accomplished experts. She can also talk about boating on the Lake Superior by the hour, roots for Atlanta Falcons, and loves to sing in thick woods.

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How to Write a Good Dialogue With Tips and Examples

6 July 2023

last updated

Dialogue in literature is an academic text that captures a conversation between two or more fictitious characters. Basically, these characters are speakers and the main focus of a writer. In this case, everything that an author writes in dialogue should be focused on speakers – their speech, language colloquialisms, and characters. Like any academic text, writing a dialogue involves adhering to specific rules. In turn, these requirements include giving each character a new paragraph, indenting each paragraph, enclosing speaker’s words within double quotation marks, and using end quotation marks in the final paragraph in case the speaker’s speech extends beyond one paragraph. Hence, writers need to learn how to write a good dialogue by using tips and examples provided in this article.

General Guidelines on Writing a Dialogue

Writing takes different forms, and authors utilize different writing strategies to make their works exciting to read. Basically, the use of dialogue in a text, such as a book, novel, play, or an essay is among these strategies. However, dialogues must be relevant to written works and strong enough to transform characters into truly believable individuals. In this case, dialogue in most texts involves fictitious characters that a writer uses to put an idea across. Moreover, one of the effects of a poor dialogue is that readers may discontinue reading the text in disgust. In essence, a healthy dialogue provides exposition through the use of distinct language between speakers and moves the story along. As such, dialogue plays a critical role in developing the thesis or plot in a text.


Purpose of Dialogue

Irrespective of the genre, writers use dialogue to inject a sense of character dynamics or interpersonal drama into their texts. Basically, dialogue creates and advances plots of books, novels, stories, narratives, or essays. About the former, dialogue helps the audience to learn much about a character by studying a manner of speech. Regarding the latter, dialogue indicates the level of interaction between or among characters, which gives the audience insight into the storyline. Besides these two purposes, dialogue also makes a text realistic, as it captures what real people do – interact and have conversations.

Definition of Dialogue

By definition, a dialogue is a spoken or written conversation between two or more persons. In works of literature, such as proses, plays, and novels, a dialogue is a literary device that authors use to advance the narrative, philosophical, or didactic purposes. In some instances, authors write in a form of dialogue where characters converse with themselves. For example, this type of dialogue is known as inner dialogue, which takes place in the mind of a character. Moreover, individuals can converse with themselves out loud, just like a dialogue between two or more characters. Although both types of dialogue enable authors to advance their text’s storylines, it is the dialogue between two or more speakers that helps them to develop characters.

Organization Rules for Dialogues

Authors should write their dialogues to make it strong and supportive of their primary purpose. As mentioned, this purpose can be narrative, philosophical, or didactic. Like any other form of writing, a dialogue has a structure and features that make it an essential component of strong writing. Basically, some of these features include character’s words, the author’s voice, and the speakers’ body language. Collectively, these elements give dialogue with its unique structure. Moreover, irrespective of the length, a dialogue maintains the same structure, and it involves indented paragraphs.

1. Speakers

The most prominent feature of dialogue is the conversation between two or more characters or speakers. For example, rules of academic writing dictate that every character should start the conversation in a new paragraph, regardless of the length of words. In this case, whether characters speak only one word, a sentence, or a paragraph, their conversation should start in a new paragraph. Then, the basis of this rule is to make readers not lose track of which character is speaking; a new paragraph is a signal to them that a new speaker has picked up the conversation. In short, paragraphs in a dialogue distinguish characters with each paragraph, exposing each character’s cadence, vocabulary, and communication style. Therefore, by following the conversation keenly, a reader can identify who is speaking even without having the name attached to the paragraph.

2. Author’s Voice

Naturally, a dialogue indicates the voice of speakers. For instance, the evidence of this voice is the rhetorical mixture of vocabulary, tone, point of view, and syntax, all of which help to develop phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. In this case, a reader can identify a speaker by keeping track of the voice of all the characters in a dialogue. Then, authors introduce their voice in a text to make their work unique. Basically, the way that a reader can separate the author’s voice from the voice of the speakers is by identifying which voice is outside quotation marks. Also, every word from characters must be under quotes to indicate their speech. In contrast, words that authors use in a text, including a dialogue, are never quoted unless they are quoting someone else.

3. Body Language

Like a conversation between or among individuals in the physical realm, dialogue in a text utilizes body language to bring out the aspect of character dynamics or interpersonal drama. Ideally, this feature enables authors to reveal the intentions, feelings, or mood of characters. Moreover, there are five main types of body language that authors use in constructing a dialogue in their text. In turn, these elements are gestures, postures, movements, facial expressions, and tones of voice.

Formatting of Dialogues

Dialogue in literature should indicate a high level of writing standards, meaning that formatting should align with applicable rules. Basically, a writer should ensure to enclose spoken words with double quotation marks. Moreover, where the speech or character is long enough to require a new paragraph, writers should open a new paragraph with quotation marks. However, they should use closing quotation marks only at the end of the final paragraph. In turn, if authors write about other characters within dialogues, they should use single quotation marks. Also, when arranging words in a dialogue, writers should indent the first line of paragraphs, indicating a new conversation, and ensure that the open end of a quotation mark faces the character’s words. Where an action interrupts a speaker, authors should write in the lower case to begin the second fragment of the sentence.

Punctuation in Dialogues

As a rule, authors should ensure the punctuation of a speaker’s words in a sentence or paragraph goes inside quotation marks. In other words, they should put a period or comma before the end quotation mark, not after. Where a dialogue closes with an ellipsis, they should not put any punctuation, just end with a closing quotation mark. Then if authors quote something within dialogues, they should use single quotation marks. In turn, transitions in dialogue help writers to indicate a constructive engagement between characters. Moreover, transitions indicate a speaker’s response to the words of another character. In this case, explanations or descriptions help an author to give readers sufficient backstory on dialogues. As a result, this backstory serves as an introduction to the intention, feelings, or mood of speakers.

15 Samples of Dialogue

Based on the rules of writing a dialogue discussed in previous sections, it is essential to use examples that exemplify those rules. Basically, provided examples used concern each rule, meaning the use of different samples of conversations between or among characters. However, some examples may be sufficient to exemplify a couple of rules. In this regard, the excerpt from The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci below is useful in exemplifying a few examples of discussed rules.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” “Yes.” She scanned the surrounding people. “Does anyone have a blade?” “A blade?” “You can’t just carve Her apart. It’s an abomination!” “Would you have Her Daughter die too?” The woman spat. “Is that What you want?” An old man wriggled through the crowd and plopped a worn knife into her palm. “Does this work?”  “It’ll have to.” She turned toward the body, trying to keep herself from wincing. Before her lay The Savior. Bloody. Dead.

Example 1: The Use of Double Quotation Marks

As discussed in the previous section that talks about the formating of a dialogue, an author should ensure to enclose a speaker’s words within double quotation marks. In the example above, Moreci has observed this rule by enclosing words of speakers within double quotation marks, such as “Do you know what you’re doing?” and “It’ll have to.” In doing so, Moreci enables readers to follow conversations and separate the author’s voice from the speakers’ voice.

Example 2: The Use of Indented Paragraphs

As discussed previously, authors use indented paragraphs in dialogue to indicate every time a new character begins to talk. In the example above, the first paragraph reads: “Do you know what you’re doing?” In this case, the paragraph is indented, denoting the speech of one speaker. Moreover, the second paragraph reads: “Yes.” She scanned the surrounding people. “Does anyone have a blade?” Basically, this paragraph is also indented, denoting the speech of another character. However, since the speech is long, it takes another sentence line, which is not indented. Therefore, the second line is neither a new paragraph nor the words of another character.

Example 3: The Use of Punctuation

As discussed in the previous section on punctuation, an author should ensure to use punctuation, such as a period, comma, question mark, or an exclamation mark before the end quotation marks. In the example above, author Moreci writes: “Do you know what you’re doing?” Here, the question mark comes before the end quote and not after. Also, Moreci writes: “Yes.” Here, the period goes inside the end quote and not outside. Then, Moreci writes: “You can’t just carve Her apart. It’s an abomination!” Basically, this speech has two sentences. In this case, the first sentence ends with a period. However, since the character continues talking, it does not end with a quote. In turn, the second sentence closes with an exclamation mark, which the author puts before the end quote, not after.

Example 4: When a Dialogue Ends with an Ellipsis

Sometimes, an author can close the words of a speaker with an ellipsis. Hence, an example is as follows:

“Every time I think about what my mother has put up with to see her children succeed in life, I…” His voice drifted off.

In this example, the author does not use any punctuation before the end quote. However, the author picks up and offers an explanation that enables readers to understand why the character ended his speech the way he did.

Example 5: When the Speaker’s Speech is Long

In some contexts, a writer can use a speech from an author that is so long that it requires a second or even third paragraph. In this case, subsequent paragraphs, which must be indented, do not indicate the beginning of a speech from another character. However, to make sure readers are not confused about who is speaking, the author does not use end quotes to close the first paragraph, while using them to end the final paragraph. However, each new paragraph opens with a quote. As a result, the excerpt below from Mudbound by Hillary Jordan makes it clear:

Tom explained the details. “The thread is a remarkable silk-wool blend, a new fabric named Allurotique. Some people compare it to the most expensive commercially available silk, Pashmina Silk; but that comparison is off base. Pashmina silk is made by weaving wool from pashmina goats with a silk produced by worms that eat only mulberry leaves. “Allurotique is blended, not woven. And it’s made from the most expensive silk and exotic wool spun into a fabric with extraordinary qualities.” “The silk in Allurotique is muga silk, which has a natural shimmering gold color. It absorbs water better than other silks, making it more comfortable to wear. It has a number of other nifty features: it’s more durable than other silks, it’s almost impossible to stain and it gets shinier with wear. “The wool in Allurotique is harvested from vicuñas, a South American animal related to llamas. Vicuña wool is softer, lighter and warmer than any other wool in the world. Since the animals can only be sheared once every three years, it’s rare and outlandishly expensive.”

Example 6: Quotes within a Dialogue

As discussed earlier, when authors quote something within a dialogue, they should use single quotation marks. Hence, an example is as follows:

Jameson started laughing uncontrollably after hearing his best friend say, “When I sat next to him, I could not help imagining ‘What on earth made him do that’?” Here, the statement ‘What on earth made him do that’ is a quote within the dialogue that the author encloses within single quotation marks. Bill laughed and pointed at him. “When that ghost jumped out and said, ‘Boo!’ you screamed like a little girl.”

Example 7: The Use of Cut-offs

Sometimes, in dialogue, authors write about an action that interrupts a speaker’s speech. In such a case, they should use lower case when beginning the second fragment of the interrupted speech. Thus, an example is as follows:

“What are you suggesting I should do, considering” — Steve took a deep breath— the fact that I don’t know any person in the governor’s office?”

In this example, Steve’s action of taking a deep breath when talking is a cut-off, as it interrupts his speech. Basically, rules indicate that in such a case, an author should use an em dash (—) to indicate that interruption in dialogue.

Example 8: The Use of Body Language – Gesture

When writing a dialogue, authors use body language to reveal the speakers’ intentions, feelings, and mood. Ideally, body language enables an author to avoid relying on dialogue tags — such as he asked, she said, he responded — because a reader understands speakers who are talking. In turn, a gesture is one of the most common types of body language that writers use in dialogue. Basically, a gesture is a bodily action that accompanies a speech. Hence, an example of a gesture in a character’s speech is as follows:

He pointed to the door next to the principal’s office. “He’s inside.”

In this example, a gesture is the speaker’s act of pointing to the principal’s office door.

Example 9: Body Language – Posture

Besides gesture, authors also use the body language of a posture in a dialogue. Just like a gesture, a posture is a bodily action. Therefore, an example of a posture in a speaker’s speech is as follows:

She stood with her legs apart. “Try to push me to the ground and see that I can’t fall.”

In this example, a posture is an act of standing with legs apart. In the speech, characters seem to suggest that being in that posture makes them stable and cannot fall easily, even when pushed.

Example 10: Body Language – Movement

Another body language that authors use in dialogue is movement. Here, writers indicate an action that speakers engage in as they converse with another or others. In the above excerpt from Moreci’s text, an example of a body language of movement is the statement:

“It’ll have to.” She turned toward the body, trying to keep herself from wincing.

In this example, a body language of movement is the act of turning toward the body.

Example 11: Body Language – Facial Expression

Facial expression is among the most widely used body languages in conversations. Like all other body languages, a facial expression is a physical act that indicates the feelings and mood of the character. Thus, an example of facial expression in a speaker’s speech is as follows:

His eyes narrowed. “How could she do that to him?” In this example, the facial expression is the act of narrowing the eyes.

Example 12: Body Language – Tone of Voice

Sometimes, in a conversation, speakers use a tone of voice to indicate their feelings and mood, such as excitement or displeasure. Therefore, an example of a tone of voice in a conversation is as follows:

“In the longrun; I will have my revenge.” His voice was deep like that of a roaring lion.

In this example, the tone of voice is the deep voice that the author likens to that of a roaring lion.

Example 13: Author’s Voice

In dialogue, there are two voices: the author’s voice and the speaker’s voice. Basically, the speaker’s voice is how a character constructs his speech by using body language and style of communication. On the other hand, the author’s voice entails vocabulary, tone of voice, point of view, and syntax. Also, this voice helps the author to shape conversations through phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. In the above excerpt from Moreci’s text, the author’s voice is captured in the statement:

Before her lay The Savior. Bloody. Dead.

None of the speakers gives this statement. It is the author describing the situation to give readers a deeper understanding of the context.

Example 14: Transitions

Like in essays, writers use transitions when constructing a dialogue. Basically, the difference between two types of papers is that transitions in a dialogue are words and phrases that speakers use to respond to other speaker’s words. In essays, transitions help readers to move logically from one argument to another. In the above excerpt from Moreci’s text, an example of a transition is captured in the following conversation:

“Do you know what you’re doing?” “Yes.”

The word “Yes” is the transition, as it denotes the response given to the preceding statement.

Example 15: Explanations/Descriptions

Authors write explanations to enhance the readers’ understanding of the context of a conversation between or among speakers. In essence, explanations are words that the author uses to explain or describe the speakers’ intention, feelings, or mood. Also, one can argue that explanations denote the author’s voice in dialogue. In the above excerpt from Moreci’s text, an example of an explanation is captured in the following conversation:

“It’ll have to.” She turned toward the body, trying to keep herself from wincing. Before her lay The Savior. Bloody. Dead.

In this example, the author explains the situation to make readers understand why the character behaved the way he did. In turn, one can argue that explanation in dialogue is an author’s way of arousing the emotions of the audience, who end up developing empathy or hatred towards certain characters.

How to Construct a Dialogue: A Step-by-Step Guide

Like any academic text, dialogue in literature has a structure that an author must follow. Ideally, the basis of this structure is the rules of formatting and punctuation described in the preceding sections. When writing a dialogue, a writer must adopt a structure that enables adherence to these rules. For instance, the most prominent features of a dialogue that informs its structure are the indented paragraphs, speakers’ speeches, transitions, and explanation. In turn, these features incorporate body language and the author’s voice to make the dialogue interesting and understandable to readers.

Step 1: Preparation

The first step in constructing a dialogue in literature is planning or preparation. Here, writers should decide on the focus of the conversation, which becomes the topic area. As already discussed, a poor dialogue can be disgusting to readers and cause them to discontinue reading the text. Then, choosing a topic is necessary to make a dialogue exciting to read. Deciding on the topic area makes it easy for authors to generate ideas about their text. Moreover, words that make up the speakers’ speech must be thought-provoking. In turn, used words should indicate a level of sophistication in the use of language. Besides, authors must decide on the audience and speakers or characters. Basically, these two features must align demographically. Ultimately, the chosen audience helps authors construct a dialogue that reveals the speakers’ characters in the conversation.

Step 2: Seting Up

After preparation, authors should set up the stage for writing a dialogue. Basically, the first step should start with finding examples of dialogue in literature to understand a healthy conversation’s features. Here, writers should create notes regarding the use of indented paragraphs, body language, transitions, explanations, and cut-offs, among other features. Moreover, the focus of authors should be to make the words of each character unique. In this regard, writers should choose speeches that move the conversation in the direction they want. Also, the topic area should inform this direction chosen in the preparation stage.

Step 3: Writing a Dialogue

The next step after preparing and setting up the stage is writing a dialogue. By considering notes taken during the stage set-up stage, authors should write the first draft. Here, writers put everything together – the indented paragraphs, character’s speeches, transitions, explanations, and body language. Basically, these features are critical in creating a working dialogue, flowing smoothly and logically from one paragraph to another paragraph. In turn, by using the speaker’s speeches and voice, authors construct the speaker’s characters so that readers can understand who is speaking even without a name attached. Also, writers should employ the “they say, I say” technique by taking what speakers have said to construct explanations. Ultimately, authors should use all the above features to ensure consistent dialogue, such as consistent characters and arguments.

Step 4: Wrapping It Up

Writing academic texts, including dialogue, involves many mistakes that should be corrected for a perfect text. For example, typical mistakes that authors make when writing a dialogue in literature include using a lot of extras (such as “hello”) and wordcount fillers. Basically, the latter involves words and phrases that bear no significance and only help authors to satisfy the expected word count. Also, one can argue that dialogue tags are an example of wordcount fillers. Then, the use of body language helps to avoid such unnecessary words in dialogue. Sometimes, authors are biased about their work, and this aspect might affect their ability to see mistakes. In turn, giving their work to a friend or mentor can help resolve this challenge. Moreover, proofreading is an essential exercise that helps authors to identify grammatical mistakes for correction.


As already discussed, transitions in written or spoken dialogue differ from those used in essays. While transitions in essays connect arguments within the text, those in a dialogue indicate responses to speeches. Basically, every time a speaker talks, another character should start a conversation by responding to those words. Ideally, such transitions help authors to create a logical flow of the conversation, which is also the case in the use of transitions in essays.

Like any other academic text, writers should ensure to use the right format when writing a dialogue in literature. For example, standard writing formats are APA, MLA, Harvard, and Chicago/Turabian. Although the arrangement of words in a dialogue differs from that of other texts, such as essays, authors still need to ensure that the arrangement adheres to academic writing standards. Basically, one of these standards involves formating. In turn, every time when authors write a quote within a dialogue, they should enclose it within single quotation marks.

Peer Review

The essence of peer review is to ensure an academic text meets the highest standards of academic writing. Basically, these standards include being credible and of high-quality. In this case, credibility comes by ensuring the text can withstand evaluation and emerge as authentic. Also, the text should not be a reproduction of another author’s work. On quality, the text should be free of the mistakes described above. Therefore, peer review is the process through which authors ensure that the text is free of these errors. In turn, one can argue that it involves ensuring that noted individuals, such as mentors and tutors, have analyzed and evaluated the text and found it high-quality. Besides, it means a paper is polished and fit for publication.

Major Mistakes in Organizing a Dialogue

There is a way that authors write dialogues in literature that undermines the quality of texts. Basically, these mistakes include dumping information, using too many names, unnatural conversations, and repetitive phrases and styles, among many others. Moreover, writers may not recognize these mistakes, partly because they tend to be biased about their work. For this reason, writing the first draft is essential to enable friends and mentors to point out such mistakes. In turn, after authors are satisfied that their texts are of high-quality, they should proceed to write final drafts. Even then, they should submit the text to vigorous review to identify any mistakes.

1. Information-Dumping

When writing academic texts, authors tend to use different strategies to satisfy the word count. Sometimes, writers may not even be aware that they are using such strategies. Basically, one of these strategies is information-dumping, which involves giving information clumsily and inappropriately. In turn, the best approach to writing a dialogue in literature is to provide readers with explanations that tell the backstory or contextualize the conversation. Moreover, a great dialogue is one in which authors use the information to help the audience understand the characters of speakers. Hence, information-dumping makes it hard for the audience to understand dialogues, mainly the intentions, feelings, and mood of a character.

2. Unnatural Dialogue

Authors should know speakers that they use in a dialogue – their characters, backgrounds, language colloquialisms, and social temperament. For example, experienced writers develop speakers to appear as real people to the audience, studying their language patterns and body language. Then, an unnatural dialogue is when this critical aspect is missing. In other words, the conversation lacks the human touch, and the audience cannot tell which character is talking without a dialogue tag. Also, an unnatural dialogue relies too much on these tags, which, as described above, is unnecessary. When people read through an unnatural dialogue, they can hardly recognize the speakers’ style and language, including slang words.

3.Irrelevant Information

Sometimes, authors of academic texts, including dialogue, write about unnecessary information. For example, a text characterized by irrelevant information has too many sentences and paragraphs with irrelevant content or content that can be summarized with few words. In dialogue, information-dumping involves the use of too many dialogue tags. As explained, writers can use body language to eliminate such information.

4. Too Many Names

Sometimes, authors may write too many things in dialogue, an aspect that undermines the quality of texts. Traditionally, writers have relied on dialogue tags to avoid repeating the speakers’ names on every occasion. However, the use of body language is slowly eliminating the need for these tags. In turn, some writers ignore tags and body language and keep on repeating the speaker’s name in every sentence. As a result, such dialogue sounds repetitive and boring and indicates a lack of creativity on the part of the author.

5. Repetitive Language

Occasionally, writers run out of vocabulary when writing academic texts and resort to using repetitive words and phrases. In dialogue, such words include the names of speakers and dialogue tags. Consequently, authors write words that have the same meaning – synonyms. Also, these words indicate the use of repetitive ideas in a dialogue text.

6. Impacts of the Above Mistakes

Collectively, the above mistakes undermine the quality of dialogue in literature. Individually, they impact how the audience approaches the text. For example, information-dumping makes it difficult for the audience to understand which of the speakers is talking, as the author fails to construct the identity (language and style) of each character in the text. In turn, an unnatural dialogue creates the same problem – speakers lack a language identity as individual human beings. As a result, too many names and repetitive language makes a dialogue disgusting and boring to read.

Summing Up on How to Write a Good Dialogue

Dialogue in literature is one example of academic texts that require the use of the highest standards of writing. Basically, these standards include using the right format and punctuation. Unlike other texts, such as essays, the dialogue has a unique set of rules that writers must adhere to organizing healthy conversations. In turn, these rules include indenting paragraphs, enclosing speakers’ words with double quotation marks, and enclosing quotes within a dialogue with single quotation marks. Then, another rule includes using punctuations before the end quotation mark, not after. In summary, a writer should master the following rules of dialogue in literature:

  • Give each character a new paragraph.
  • Indent each paragraph.
  • Enclose the speaker’s words within double quotation marks.
  • Use end quotation marks in the final paragraph in case the speaker’s speech extends beyond one paragraph.
  • Enclose quotes in a dialogue within single quotation marks.

Besides the above rules, the following tips are essential in writing a dialogue:

  • Keep it brief. Ensure each speaker’s words do not extend beyond a paragraph and ensure the entire conversation is within a page or two.
  • Avoid small talk. Avoid words that add no real value to the conversation, such as descriptions of surroundings. Keep the focus on speakers and their characters.
  • Maintain consistency. It is essential to pick up a style or character and make it consistent throughout the conversation. Basically, this aspect is essential in developing the speakers’ character and language style.
  • Create suspense. Use words and phrases that create suspense. In this case, it makes the audience eager to know what happens next, thus continue reading.
  • “Show, don’t tell.” Ensure not to rely on telling the audience about speakers, but rather show them through their speech. As such, the use of explanations should be limited, even as transitions abound.
  • Avoid dialogue tags. Rather than using too many dialogue tags, use body language — gesture, posture, movement, facial expression, and tone of voice — to show the speakers’ intentions, feelings, and mood.

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  • Dialogue Writing


What is Dialogue Writing?

If you want to write a story, dialogues are a very important part of the story. Writing a good dialogue requires a set of rules to follow because a bad dialogue can change the story and the dialogue’s meaning as well. Dialogue writing is a very important part of English writing.

Dialogue is basically a conversation between two or more people. In fiction, it is a verbal conversation between two or more conversations. Sometimes it is a self-talking dialogue, they are known as a Monolog.

If the dialogue is bad the reader will put the book down. Without effective dialogues, the whole plot of the story will collapse on its own structure. Therefore, writing dialogue in a way that attracts the reader to be more involved in the story is not a daunting task. We will guide you to write impactful dialogue with correct rules.

Points to be Remember  

1. The students need to read the preceding and the following dialogues.

2. They must understand the topic well and make points.

3. The tenses should be accurate according to the dialogue.

4. It should seem like a natural conversation.

5. The words used should not be vague and should convey the message.

Tips to Write Dialogue

Speak out the Dialogue loudly as it will help you resonate on your own dialogue and make you understand how it will sound to the reader.

Keep your dialogue brief and impactful as adding extra details will only deviate the reader’s mind from the main point.

Give each character a unique way of talking or voice. It will add an extra character trait and readers can identify the character just by reading his dialogue.

While writing the dialogue always remember whom the dialogue is being addressed to.

Dialogues should not be lengthy and confusing for the readers as through the dialogue only the story moves.

Format of Dialogue Writing

New Paragraph for Every Speaker

Every speaker gets a new paragraph. Each time a speaker says something, you have to put in a fresh paragraph, even if it is just one word. 

Punctuations Come under Quotation Marks

All the punctuations used with dialogue must be put under the quotes. 

Remove End Quote if the Paragraph is Long

If the paragraph of dialogue is too long and you need to change the paragraph, then there is no need to put end quotes. 

Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags i.e. He says/she says are always written outside the dialogue and is separated by a comma. When dialogue ends in a question or exclamation mark, tags that follow start in lower case.

For eg- He says, “We should start our own business.” 

Use Single Quotation Mark to Quote Something with a Dialogue

If you have to quote something within a dialogue we should put single quotes as double quotes are already enclosing the main dialogue.

For eg- Bill shouted, “ ‘boo!’ you lost the game.

The Dialogue Ends with an Ellipsis

If the Dialogue ends with an ellipsis, we should not add a comma or any other punctuation. For eg- She stared at the sunset. “I guess you’ll go back to doing what you do and I will…” her voice drifted off.

Solved Example

1. Write a Dialogue between You and Your Teacher about which Course to Study at Vacations. 

Child- Good Morning Sir, how are you?

Teacher- I am completely fine. What about you?

Student- I was wondering which course to learn in my vacation.

Teacher- It can be confusing with so many options online. You should make a list and narrow it down as per your interest.

Student- I have tried that but still I am left with three options- Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning or Data science.

Teacher- Well! All of them are very interesting courses, but as far as I remember you have always been interested in Artificial Intelligence.

Student- Yes! I do because I feel it is our future.

Teacher- Well then its no harm in pursuing it and later if you find it less interesting you can always switch.

Student- Yes it sounds like a great idea. Thanks!

2. Complete the following Dialogues-

Megha calls up Rajat to make a plan for New years. Complete the dialogue between Megha and Rajat by filling in the gaps.

Megha :  (i) ………………….. this New year?

Rajat:  I don’t have any plans.

Megha:  How do you like the idea (ii) …………………. the  Sapna’s party?

Rajat:  That sounds fantastic, But I (iii) ………………….my parent’s permission.

Megha:  I’ll come to your house this evening and request your parents to allow you to join me to go to a party.

Rajat:  Ok.

Megha :  (iv) …………………….. in the evening?

Rajat:  Yes. They will be at home.

Rohit:  Then I’ll surely come.

Basic Rules for Discussion All Writers Should Follow

Here are some basic rules for writing a conversation:

Each speaker receives a new category - Every time someone speaks, he shows this by creating a new category. Yes, even if your characters say only one word, they get new categories.

Each category has an indent - The only exception to this is at the beginning of the chapter or after the break, where the first line has not been postponed, including the discussion.

The punctuation marks are inserted into the quotes - Whenever punctuation is part of the spoken word, it enters the quotation marks so that the reader can know how the dialogue is spoken.

Long sentences with few paragraphs do not have end quotations - You’ll see a lot of this below, but overall, when one character speaks for a long time with different categories, the quotation marks are eventually removed, but you start the next paragraph with them.

Use singular quotes when a speaker quotes another - If a character is present who says, “Rohan, do you like it when girls say,‘ I’m fine ’?”, One quote shows what someone else said.

Skip the small talk and focus on the important information only - Unless that little talk is accompanied by character development, skip and get to the point, this is not real life and you will feel very liable if you have too much.


FAQs on Dialogue Writing

1. Can we write dialogues without Quotes?

No, a quotation mark is very important as it distinguishes between the rest of the text and dialogues. The characters who speak the dialogues are an important source of the quotes because of which we are required to put quotes in the dialogues. Quotations add life to the dialogues by making them more realistic and genuine. It ensures that the interpersonal skills of the people using dialogues is improved. It is an interpersonal discourse with members of your society or your house.

2. What are Dialog Tags?

Dialogue tags are the phrases like, “he said”, “She said'', they attribute the speaker to the dialogue so that the reader always knows who is speaking the dialogue. Dialogue tags are the short lines in a sentence that are used to identify the speaker. The main function of a Dialogue tag in dialogue writing is for identifying who is speaking. The Vedantu website provides all the guidelines as to how the dialogue writing must be planned. Until you use a proper noun, the dialogue tag will not be capitalized. You have to end the dialogue with punctuation marks inside quotes.

3. What is Ellipsis in a dialogue?

Three dots are used at the end of the sentence to show that something has been omitted. Using ellipses in dialogues is done to indicate a disruption at the end of a line of dialogue. The general rule of adding ellipses at the end of dialogue or line is to indicate that a speaker faltered before completing his or her statement. Ellipses are the most passive-aggressive of all the punctuation marks as when they are used in casual conversation, ellipses connote hesitation, confusion, and apathy.

4. What is the Purpose of Dialogue writing?

Dialogues are referred to as the conversations between two or more characters and it’s called a monolog if there is only one character speaking which is sometimes used in plays.  There are several factors on which the character speaking depends.

Where they live

The period in which they live

The dialogue should move the story forward. It may increase suspense, show readers a trait(s) of the character(s), and/or change the situation or conflict the characters are in.

5. Why choose Vedantu to refer to the rules of dialogue writing?

Till now the students must have reviewed the entire website of Vedantu and also must have found the answers to whatever they must search for. Vedantu without any doubt is the best website as it provides comprehensive solutions to all the doubts of the students. The experts at Vedantu are not only providing concepts related to the base building of the students but also are giving the students the ability and urge to read and write more. Hence, the students are highly recommended to use Vedantu.


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