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dialogue writing in english grammar

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.

dialogue writing in english grammar

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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dialogue writing in english grammar


dialogue writing in english grammar


dialogue writing in english grammar


How to Write Dialogue: Formatting, Examples, & Tips

Posted on Mar 13, 2023

by Bella Rose Pope

Learning how to write dialogue can be tough for some without the right guidance.

This is why we started Fundamentals of Fiction & Story in the first place. We wanted to give writers the skills and knowledge they needed to take an idea and turn it into a bestselling novel (and even potentially a full-time career).

But unless you plan on writing a textbook, you must learn how to properly create dialogue—and use it correctly because yes, there is a wrong way to present dialogue (and we’ll get into that later).

Without effective dialogue, even the best plot or book ideas will fall flat. Your efforts for successfully publishing a book that reads well will be ineffective. Writing well is the cornerstone of marketing your book . Ultimately, your reader’s reviews of your book will hold weight.

Because if the dialogue is bad… Readers will put the book down (because the dialogue is often what readers pay the most attention to).

But if you’re not sure how to write dialogue in a way that is not only natural but also works as a catalyst within your book, the process of writing a book can be even more daunting than it already is.

6-LESSON Fiction & Memoir Writing Handbook including <

How To Write Dialogue Activity Guide [Printable]

Learn how to write better dialogue. Dialogue writing examples, dialogue writing format guide, dialogue writing activity, PLUS 100 words to replace “said”. Start writing better dialogue NOW!

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You can’t write a book without dialogue—and you can’t write a good book without good dialogue (even if you’re writing a nonfiction book !).

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to write dialogue, including dialogue format, dialogue punctuation, examples of dialogue with grammar, and common dialogue mistakes to avoid.

We’ll also cover, in detail, how to write realistic dialogue.

Here’s what to know about writing dialogue:

*click to jump to that section

Ready to learn what makes great dialogue? Let’s get started.

Basic Dialogue Rules All Writers Should Follow

Before we get into the actual formatting and styles of writing dialogue (along with some tips for making sure it’s good dialogue), let’s go over some of the common and universal rules for writing dialogue in any book genre .

Here are the main rules for writing dialogue:

Dialogue Punctuation and Format

When it comes to book formatting , dialogue is one of the most difficult to get right.

It’s not that it’s especially complicated, but there are many different types of dialogue and many different types of punctuation (including when to use a comma, quotes, and even em dashes) needed in order to properly format it.

Therefore, it’s easy to get confused or forget which format you should use for which line of dialogue.

The basics for the format of dialogue is that each time a new person speaks, it’s a new paragraph with quotes around what they said.

In order to fully understand how to format dialogue, you have to know how to punctuate it properly, depending on the form you’re using.

The one thing most writers get wrong when they’re first starting out is proper dialogue format.

Sure, you could leave that up to the editor , but the more work for your editor, the more expensive they’ll be.

Plus, it’s important that, as serious writers and future authors, you know how to punctuate dialogue no matter what.

That also means editors will be able to focus on more complex edits instead of just punctuation.

Dialogue punctuation is complex and takes some time to learn, understand, and master.

While we go into more depth with dialogue in our Fundamentals of Fiction program, here are some dialogue examples of each and how you would punctuate them.

Dialogue Example 1: Single Line

Single lines of dialogue are among the easiest to write and remember. The punctuation for this dialogue is simple:

The quotations go on the outside of both the words and end-of-dialogue punctuation (in this case a period, but it’s the same for a comma, question mark, or exclamation point).

Example: “You really shouldn’t have done that.”

How To Write Dialogue Example

No matter what other punctuation you have, whether it’s a question mark or exclamation point, it will go on the inside of the quotations.

Dialogue Example 2: Single line with a dialogue tag

In this case, “tag” means dialogue tag.

A dialogue tag is anything that indicates which character spoke and describes how they spoke.

Here are some common examples of dialogue tags:

In the example below, you can see that the dialogue tag goes on the outside of the quotations, while the comma goes on the inside .

Example: “You really shouldn’t have done that,” he whispered.

Dialogue Tag Example

This is the case with any dialogue tags that are used. You can also see how this dialogue formatting works with different types of sentences and different dialogue tags.

Note that the tag, when following a comma within the quotation marks, is lowercase,  as it’s a part of the overall sentence.

Dialogue Example 3: Questions

Because a question mark seems like the end of a sentence, it’s easy for most writers to get the format for questions when writing dialogue wrong.

But it’s actually pretty easy. Essentially, a question mark will be treated as a comma or period. What changes the formatting most is what follows the dialogue.

Example: “Are you sure we have to leave that early?” she wondered aloud.

Here are some examples of writing questions in dialogue:

Writing Dialogue Question Example

In this example above, you can see that if there is a dialogue tag , the question mark will act as a comma and you will then lowercase the first word in the dialogue tag (unless it’s a person’s name).

However, if there is simply an action after the question, the question mark acts as a period and you will then capitalize the first word in the next sentence.

Dialogue Example 4: Dialogue Tag, then single line

When it comes to formatting dialogue tags before your character speaks, it’s essentially the same as when they come after, except backward.

As you can see in the example above, the dialogue tag is in front, followed by a comma outside of the quotations. Then the quotations appear when the sentence starts with that sentence’s punctuation inside the quotations at the end.

Example: He finally said, “Fine. Let’s just go for it.”

Here are a few more examples of this type of dialogue, as it’s very common:

How To Write Dialogue Punctuation Example

Dialogue Example 5: Body language description

There are a couple of different types of body language dialogue formats to learn.

Variation 1:

This is when the actions your character is taking come between lines of dialogue but after a sentence is complete. In real life, this would indicate someone pausing to complete the action.

Example: “I don’t see what the big deal is.” She tossed a braid over her shoulder. “It’s not like she cared anyway.”

Here’s what this dialogue example looks like:

Below is a detailed explanation of how you would format this type of dialogue:

How To Write Dialogue Format

Variation 2 :

With this dialogue formatting, it’s different because this is when a character does something while they are speaking, instead of pausing like in variation 1. The action happens in the middle of a sentence and has to be formatted as such.

Example: “I don’t see what”—she tossed a braid over her shoulder—”the big deal is.”

Here are some dialogue examples of this formatting:

You can see the proper formatting for this dialogue below:

How To Write Dialogue Em Dash

You would use this to help build a clearer image and communicate the scene to match how it is in your head.

This is also the case when characters have inner thoughts within their dialogue, as seen in the second example in variation 2.

Dialogue Example 6: Single line getting cut off

Something that happens in real life (sometimes an irritatingly large amount) is getting cut off or interrupted when you’re speaking.

This typically happens when someone either doesn’t care what you’re talking about or when two people are in an argument and end up speaking over one another.

Example: “Are you crazy—” “Do not call me crazy.”

How To Write Dialogue Cut Off

You can see in this example that you place an Em Dash (—) right at the end of the sentence, followed by the quotation marks.

You’ll treat this format of dialogue much like example 1, a single line of dialogue.

Dialogue Example 7: Dialogue tag in the middle of a line

Another common type of dialogue. This is essentially a mix of a single line with a dialogue tag.

Example: “You really shouldn’t have done that,” she murmured. “That will get you in a lot of trouble.”

Writing Dialogue

Mostly, you will use this type in order to indicate who is talking if there are more than two and in order to keep the focus on the dialogue itself and not the character’s actions.

Dialogue Example 8: Paragraphs of dialogue

There are certain situations that call for a single character to speak for a long time. However, grammatically, not all of what they say will belong in the same paragraph.

Example: single speaker “It’s not that I don’t think you should have done that. Not exactly. “Actually, I think it might be a great thing for you to have done. I’m just worried about what will happen next and how that will impact everyone else.”

How To Write Dialogue Paragraph

For writing dialogue paragraphs, you want to leave the quotations off the end of the paragraph and begin the next paragraph with them in order to indicate that the same person is just telling a long story .

[ NOTE: These dialogue rules apply to American English. Other parts of the world may use different dialogue formatting, including single quotations and more. ]

How to Create Dialogue That’s Realistic and Effective

Great dialogue is hard to get right. For something we do and hear every day, knowing what to make your characters say in order to move the plot forward and increase intrigue isn’t easy.

But that’s why we’ve broken it down into easy steps for writing dialogue for you.

Here are some of the best tips for writing dialogue that feels real but is also effective for moving your story forward.

#1 – Say it out loud first

One of the easiest and best ways to see if your dialogue sounds realistic is to read it out loud, especially if you are writing a genre that would benefit from such an approach.

Hearing what someone is supposed to say (since your readers will imagine them speaking out loud) will allow you to determine if it sounds real or fake.

One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes your dialogue will sound a little “cheesy” to you. Since written dialogue is a little different and more purposeful than what we hear in our day-to-day lives, you might think it sounds a little dramatic—and that’s okay. It just can’t be unrealistic.

But that’s okay! Dialogue should have more “weight” than what you say in real life.

Even so, it has to sound like something someone would actually say. If you feel yourself cringing a little or you can’t imagine a real person saying it, you might have to do some editing.

Ask these questions when reading your dialogue out loud to yourself:

Extra dialogue tip: Record yourself reading your dialogue in what you imagine your characters to sound like and play it back to yourself. This can help you pinpoint which words or phrases sound off.

#2 – Get rid of the small talk

Your readers don’t care about what your characters had for dinner last night—unless that dinner had been poisoned and is now seeping into their bloodstream, impacting their immediate danger.

Talking about the weather or your character’s pet or anything trivial will read as boring and unnecessary.

This also slows down your novel’s pacing.

One exception may be if your characters are stalling in order to avoid talking about something that is major and impactful to the plot. When it’s used as a literary device to set the mood or tone of a scene, it’s acceptable.

#3 – Keep it brief and impactful

Dialogue in books is not meant to read in the way we actually speak—not full conversations, at least. If it did, each book would be exceptionally longer, due in part to the fact that humans often say a lot of pointless things.

When it comes to writing dialogue in your book, you have to keep it briefer and more poignant than in real life.

A great way to get to the meat of the dialogue is to cut out everything that doesn’t immediately impact the scene.

A quick, “Hey, how’s it going?” isn’t necessary unless the other character’s state is vital to the scene. This, however, doesn’t include if your character is meeting someone for the first time, obviously. Again, focus on writing the scene in a way that informs the dialogue.

Essentially, anything that does not further develop your character, the plot, or any subplots should be cut.

#4 – Give each character a unique way of speaking

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, but not everyone speaks in the same way. We all have a specific “flow” to our sentences and we all have favorite words we prefer to use.

This is actually a big part of character development in your novel.

For example, maybe people will use “perhaps” or “maybe” but not often both in equal amounts. This is a very small detail, but it does a long way in developing the characters and giving them their own voice.

Another way you can do this is with sentence structure.

Does your character speak in short, chopped sentences? Or do they eloquently describe their point of view in long-winded, crafted sentences that ebb and flow with their tone of voice?

Do they use a lot of analogies and metaphors when explaining things or is this character extremely literal and gets right to the point?

This difference is very important. Your readers should be able to tell the difference between characters based on their sentences and diction . It ultimately comes down to your chops as an author when it comes to writing styles and your ability to use it to bring your characters alive.

A reasonable exception to this would be pairs or groups of close people. Meaning, if your main character’s best friend speaks similarly to them, that’s okay. As humans, we subconsciously pick up on the speech patterns of those closest to us – those we speak to regularly (like when we use similar slang in our friend group that others may not use).

#5 – Add world-appropriate slang

A major part of the dialogue that often gets overlooked is the slang.

Even in our own world, new slang is developed every day and sometimes, the words might seem crazy or even confusing.

Take the term “fleek” for example. This word looks like it would be a herd of some sort of animal.

But in fact, it’s a word being “on point” or “sharp.”

The point is, creating unique slang for your world can add to the dialogue and tell you more about the characters who use it, not to mention build your world effortlessly.

Here’s an example of slang from Jenna Moreci’s, EVE: The Awakening . This book is set in the near future and so Moreci had to create slang fitting for the time:

#6 – Be consistent with characters’ voices

It wouldn’t make sense for your character to flop the way they speak unless they’re talking to someone specific (which we cover in the next tip).

The main idea is that if one character speaks in choppy sentences, it should remain that way unless the moment changes to something that would require something more elegant.

At the same time, you want to make sure your characters are using consistent language.

Like in the tips in #4, if they use a specific word more frequently, make sure they use that word whenever they should in order to maintain a consistent voice.

#7 – Think about who they’re speaking to

You don’t speak in the same way around every single person.

Your voice and style change depending on who you’re chatting with. For example, you’re going to talk differently to your mom than you would to your best friend.

While it’s important to be consistent with your character’s style and voice, it’s also crucial to think about the who when it comes to their dialogue and adjust accordingly.

#8 – Keep long speech paragraphs to a minimum

Rarely do people speak for a very long time uninterrupted. It might be important for your character to say something lengthy but remember to at least split it up with body language and other means of giving your reader a break.

These can feel very long-winded and end up slowing down the pacing of your book, which can be great if you use them for this purpose.

One way to break up long paragraphs if one person is speaking for a while (like when they’re telling a story of sorts) is to add in the other characters’ body language reactions.

But if you’re trying to move your plot along at a steady rate, avoid long speech paragraphs.

#9 – Cut the hellos and goodbyes

Greetings are absolutely necessary in real life. In your book? Not so much.

Your readers know enough to assume there was a greeting of some sort. In addition, these aren’t usually pivotal parts of your book and therefore, aren’t necessary to have.

An exchange like this will bore your readers to death:

“Hey, Charlie!” “What’s up, dude?” “Not much, how are you doing?” “I’m fine, you know. Same old, same old.” “Ah, I feel ya. Anything new in your world?” “Not really, to tell you the truth.”

Cutting these will help speed up your pacing as well as keep the dialogue to the must-speak information.

#10 – Show who your character is

One of the best methods of character development is dialogue.

Think about it: how do we learn about new people when we meet them? Through what they say.

You could meet someone entirely new and based on the exchange, you actually learn a lot about who they are and how they operate in life.

You discover if they’re shy, bold, blunt, or kind-hearted and soft-spoken.

Your dialogue should do the very same for your characters.

Here’s an example of what this would look like:

She let stray strands fall in front of her face as she looked down and scuffed something sticky on the sidewalk. “ Do you really think so ?” Her voice was soft, her eyes still fixed on the ground instead of the new guy standing in front of her.

This example shows you what the character looks like in a specific situation and therefore, we gather facts about what she’s like.

For one, she’s shy—as much is seen by her avoiding eye contact even as she speaks.

Common Dialogue Mistakes to Avoid

We all make mistakes. But if you want to become a published author (or just write a great book), you can’t make these major ones within your book’s dialogue.

#1 – Using the person’s name repeatedly

It’s tempting to make your characters call each other’s names often. However, this isn’t how we talk in real life.

Unless we’re trying to get their attention or are emphasizing (or warning!) a point, we don’t say their name.

How not to write dialogue:

  “Rebecca, I really needed you and you weren’t there.”

  “I’m sorry, Ashley. I was just busy with school and work.”

  “Okay, but that’s not a good excuse Rebecca.”

  “You’re right, Ashley. It’s not.”

#2 – Info-dumping through dialogue

It’s perfectly okay to have some characters explain certain elements your readers won’t understand. However, it gets very boring and unrealistic when that’s all they do.

Your world should unfold gradually to the reader through showing and not telling.

In the case of dialogue, this worldbuilding is all “tell” and no show. And this works sometimes, especially if a character is telling another character about something they don’t yet know.

Just keep this to a minimum and use other methods of worldbuilding to show your readers the world you’ve created.

#3 – Avoid repetitive dialogue tags

There’s nothing quite as annoying as reading dialogue tags over and over…and over again.

It’s a surefire way to bore your readers and make them want to set the book down with no plans to pick it back up in the immediate future.

How not to write dialogue with tags:

  “I really needed you and you weren’t there,” Ashley said.

  “I’m sorry. I was just busy with school and work,” Rebecca replied.

  “Okay, but that’s not a good excuse,” she huffed.

“You’re right. It’s not,” Rebecca whispered.

#4 – Avoid repetitive dialogue styles

This means that if you have the same dialogue format for a few lines, you need to change it up because otherwise, it will be very boring to your readers.

You can see in the point above, using only dialogue tags at the end is very boring. The same applies for repeated other types as well.

For example, read through each of these and you can get a feel for the monotony you want to avoid within the repeated formats.

Bad Dialogue Example 1:  Dialogue tags in the front

  He spoke. “You’re one of the oddest people I know.”

  She replied, “Is that necessarily a bad thing?”

   He smiled. “I didn’t say it was a bad thing at all.”

  She laughed. “Good. ”

Bad Dialogue Example 2: Action within the dialogue

   “I’m just not sure”—she grabbed a handful of seeds— “that you’re taking this seriously.”

   “What?” He weaved between the overgrown plants, pushing them aside. “Why would you think that?”

   “Because you—” she plunged her finger into the pot with soil— “just ignore the important stuff unless it’s important to you only.”

  “That’s ridiculous.” He craned his neck around a calla lily. “That’s not true.”

Bad Dialogue Example 3: Tags in the middle

  “I really wish you would just talk to me,” Ada said. “This silent treatment isn’t helping anyone.”

  “It’s helping me,” he said. “Or does that not matter to you?”

  “Of course it matters to me,” she replied. “It’s just not solving the problem.”

  “I don’t think anything can solve this problem,” he murmured. “It’s permanent.”

How to fix this: whenever you’re writing dialogue, switch the type of formatting you use in order to make it look and sound better. The more enjoyable it is to read, the more readers will become invested.

One exception is when you have two characters going back and forth very quickly. In this case, a few lines of dialogue only, with no tags or anything, is acceptable.

Fixing Dialogue Example: Variation is Key

  “I’m just not sure”—she grabbed a handful of seeds— “that you’re taking this seriously.”

   He weaved between the overgrown plants, pushing them aside.“Why would you think that?”

   “Because…you just ignore the important stuff unless it’s important to you only.”

   “That’s ridiculous.”

   “No.” She plunged her finger into the pot with soil, dropping in a few seeds. “It’s true.”

Much like with anything that has rules, there are always exceptions.

The most important part of these rules is knowing them .

Once you know the rules and why they’re there, you can break with purpose – instead of doing so on accident.

Want To Learn More About Self-Publishing School and our Book Coaches and Book-Writing Courses?

If you have additional questions or need additional resources, book a call with our Resource Team .

Our team can give you extra resources to help you on your author journey, learn about your book and your book goals.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Self-Publishing School can help you write, publish, and market your books (or sell more books if you’re published already), our Resource Team can also schedule a call with one of our Publishing Success Strategists for you. Your Success Strategist will ask questions about your book to understand if you’re a good fit for our programs and explain what we offer at Self-Publishing School. You’ll learn about our tailored courses, writing groups, mastermind community, and our amazing book coaches. With one of the highest success rates in the industry (for an online school plus coaching and accountability program), we want to make sure that you are paired with the right coach and program for your book, or we’ll recommend other resources for you.

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dialogue writing in english grammar

Dialogue Writing - Style, Format and Examples

Are you a good speaker or a great listener? If you are, you should have definitely come across multiple instances where something you said or you heard someone say stuck to your mind. This happens mainly because those words touched your heart or made you think. That is the effect of a good dialogue. Even a simple conversation with your family, friends or even an unknown group of people can give you ideas and thoughts to ponder on.

This article will introduce you to the art of dialogue writing and give you information about all that you need to know. Furthermore, go through the sample dialogues and analyse how they make an effect.

Table of Contents

What is dialogue writing, the purposes of writing a dialogue, inner dialogue, outer dialogue, basic format and structure of a dialogue, punctuation, what not to do when writing a dialogue – points to remember, dialogues from stories and plays, dialogues from movies and tv shows, frequently asked questions on dialogue writing in english.

The term ‘dialogue’ is something all of you would be familiar with. As social beings, people (irrespective of being young or old, male or female) communicate with each other. Such a communication where both parties involved in the conversation have something to say about the topic being discussed can be said to be dialogue. A dialogue can be on any topic – a very simple talk about a daily chore, a serious talk about a social or medical problem, a discussion about what has to be done for an event and so on. The only point that you should remember is that a dialogue isn’t just any conversation but a conversation between two people specifically.

The Collins Dictionary defines the term ‘dialogue’ as “a conversation between two people in a book, film, or play”. Transcribing a dialogue in writing or presenting a conversation in text is referred to as dialogue writing.

What do you think is the reason behind writing dialogues in a story, play or film? Is it mandatory to include dialogues in a story? There are stories where you have a third person narrator or one of the characters of the story presenting the story from their perspective. What difference does it make when there are dialogues instead of just someone narrating each and everything that is happening in the story?

Having dialogues along with stage directions instead of just narrations can be said to be a better writing technique as it gives the readers a clear picture of the characteristics of the various characters in the story, play or movie. It also gives your characters life, and above all, a voice of their own. Dialogues portray the emotional state, mindset, background information and attitude of the speakers. This will always be more effective as it would let the readers connect with the characters on a more personal level.

Dialogue writing is also one area where the writers get to be creative even to the extent of breaking some conventional grammatical rules. For instance, elongating a word or writing the whole word in capital letters or using multiple question marks or exclamation marks to stress on whatever is being said. For example: YESSSS!!

Another component of dialogue writing is adding stage directions. Stage directions are short phrases written in brackets that give the reader an idea of what the character is doing as they engage in the dialogue. For example: Dan (rubbing his eyes): I am still tired.

Types of Dialogues

Dialogues can be classified into two main types namely,

The term ‘inner dialogue’ refers to the individual character’s thoughts which are not spoken aloud; in other words, said to anyone else. They can be something a character is thinking as the other character is speaking and their thoughts about what is going on or what the other character is doing. These inner dialogues are not placed within quotation marks .

As the name suggests, ‘outer dialogues’ are thoughts that are spoken aloud. They refer to everything the two characters involved in the dialogue say to each other. Outer dialogues are usually placed with quotation marks.

Fundamental Rules to Be Followed When Writing a Dialogue

Dialogue writing can look and sound simple; however, when actually putting dialogue in writing, there are certain rules regarding the structure and format you need to follow. Go through each of these in detail in the sections given below.

Dialogues can be part of a story, a play or a movie. Each one has a different structure and format in which the dialogues have to be presented; however, there is a basic structure that can be followed. Go through the following points to learn the essential attributes a dialogue must have.

In every form of writing, punctuation is an important factor that makes it sensible. In the same manner, dialogue writing also would not make any sense without proper punctuation. Learn how to punctuate dialogues by going through the following points.

“Are you ready to go?”

Now that you know how to write a dialogue, let us also look at what all you are not supposed to do when writing a dialogue.

Examples of Dialogue Writing

To help you understand and learn the art of dialogue writing, here are a few examples from some famous stories, plays, movies and TV shows.

A few examples from ‘The Crocodile and the Monkey’ are given below. Go through them and try to analyse how the description and dialogues are written.

Here are a few examples from the short story, ‘The Gift of the Magi’ by O. Henry. Check them out.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Here are a few quotes from the play, ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by William Shakespeare.

Bassanio: Ay, sir, for three months.

Shylock: For three months; well.

Bassanio: For which, as I told you, Antonio shall be bound.

Shylock: Antonio shall become bound; well.

Bassanio: May you stead me? Will you pleasure me? shall I know your answer?

Shylock: Three thousand ducats for three months and Antonio bound.

Gratiano: Yes, faith, my lord.

Bassanio: Our feast shall be much honour’d in your marriage.

Gratiano: We’ll play with them the first boy for a thousand ducats.

Check out the following section to learn how dialogues from movies and TV shows are written. Furthermore, analyse the style and language used.

The following sample conversation is from the Disney movie ‘Moana’. Check it out.

Maui: Boat! A boat! The Gods have given me a (screams)

Moana: Maui, shapeshifter, demigod of the wind and sea. I am Moana…

Maui: Hero of Man.

Moana: Wh..What?

Maui: It’s actually Maui, shapeshifter, demigod of the wind and sea, hero of man. I

interrupted, from the top, hero of man. Go.

Moana: I am Mo…

Maui: Sorry, Sorry, sorry, sorry. And women. Men and women. Both. All. Not a guy-girl

thing. Ah, you know, Maui is a hero to all. You’re doing great.

Moana: What? No, I came here to…

Maui: Oh, of course, of course. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Maui always has time for his fans.

When you use a bird to write with, it’s called tweeting. (laughs) I know, not every day you

get a chance to meet your hero.

Moana: You are not my hero. And I’m not here so you can sign my oar. I’m here because

you stole the heart of Te Fiti and you will board my boat, sail across the sea, and put it

The following example is taken from the series ‘Anne with an E’.

Anne: Hello, Diana!

Diana: My, what have you done to your hat?

Anne: Well, I wanted to make a good first impression and it was so plain.

Diana: You’re making an impression all right.

Anne: I’m glad you found your way.

Diana: I expect we should be able to walk together soon.

Anne: We can’t?

Diana: I’m sure it won’t be long until my parents accept you, now that you’re a Cuthbert and all.

Also check out: Conversation between Teacher and Student │ Conversation between Doctor and Patient │ Conversation between Two Friends │ Conversation between Shopkeeper and Customer

What is dialogue writing?

A dialogue isn’t just any conversation but a conversation between two people specifically. Transcribing a dialogue in writing or presenting a conversation in text is referred to as dialogue writing.

What is the definition of a dialogue?

The Collins Dictionary defines the term ‘dialogue’ as “a conversation between two people in a book, film, or play”.

What is the format of dialogue writing?

The basic structure and format of a dialogue is as follows:

dialogue writing in english grammar

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A Guide to Writing Dialogue, With Examples

Lindsay Kramer

“Guess what?” Tanika asked her mother. 

“What?” her mother replied.

“I’m writing a short story,” Tanika said. 

“Make sure you practice writing dialogue!” her mother instructed. “Because dialogue is one of the most effective tools a writer has to bring characters to life.” Give your writing extra polish Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly

What is dialogue, and what is its purpose?

Dialogue is what the characters in your short story , poem , novel, play, screenplay, personal essay —any kind of creative writing where characters speak—say out loud. 

For a lot of writers, writing dialogue is the most fun part of writing. It’s your opportunity to let your characters’ motivations, flaws, knowledge, fears, and personality quirks come to life. By writing dialogue, you’re giving your characters their own voices, fleshing them out from concepts into three-dimensional characters. And it’s your opportunity to break grammatical rules and express things more creatively. Read these lines of dialogue: 

Dialogue has multiple purposes. One of them is to characterize your characters. Read the examples above again, and think about who each of those characters are. You learn a lot about somebody’s mindset, background, comfort in their current situation, emotional state, and level of expertise from how they speak. 

Another purpose dialogue has is exposition, or background information. You can’t give readers all the exposition they need to understand a story’s plot up-front. One effective way to give readers information about the plot and context is to supplement narrative exposition with dialogue. For example, the protagonist might learn about an upcoming music contest by overhearing their coworkers’ conversation about it, or an intrepid adventurer might be told of her destiny during an important meeting with the town mystic. Later on in the story, your music-loving protagonist might express his fears of looking foolish onstage to his girlfriend, and your intrepid adventurer might have a heart-to-heart with the dragon she was sent to slay and find out the truth about her society’s cultural norms. 

Dialogue also makes your writing feel more immersive. It breaks up long prose passages and gives your reader something to “hear” other than your narrator’s voice. Often, writers use dialogue to also show how characters relate to each other, their setting, and the plot they’re moving through. 

It can communicate subtext, like showing class differences between characters through the vocabulary they use or hinting at a shared history between them. Sometimes, a narrator’s description just can’t deliver information the same way that a well-timed quip or a profound observation by a character can. 

In contrast to dialogue, a monologue is a single, usually lengthy passage spoken by one character. Monologues are often part of plays. 

The character may be speaking directly to the reader or viewer, or they could be speaking to one or more other characters. The defining characteristic of a monologue is that it’s one character’s moment in the spotlight to express their thoughts, ideas, and/or perspective. 

Often, a character’s private thoughts are delivered via monologue. If you’re familiar with the term internal monologue , it’s referring to this. An internal monologue is the voice an individual ( though not all individuals ) “hears” in their head as they talk themselves through their daily activities. Your story might include one or more characters’ inner monologues in addition to their dialogue. Just like “hearing” a character’s words through dialogue, hearing their thoughts through a monologue can make a character more relatable, increasing a reader’s emotional investment in their story arc. 

Types of dialogue

There are two broad types of dialogue writers employ in their work: inner and outer dialogue.  

Inner dialogue is the dialogue a character has inside their head. This inner dialogue can be a monologue. In most cases, inner dialogue is not marked by quotation marks . Some authors mark inner dialogue by italicizing it.

Outer dialogue is dialogue that happens externally, often between two or more characters. This is the dialogue that goes inside quotation marks. 

How to structure dialogue

Dialogue is a break from a story’s prose narrative. Formatting it properly makes this clear. When you’re writing dialogue, follow these formatting guidelines: 

Things to avoid when writing dialogue

When you’re writing dialogue, avoid these common pitfalls: 

How to write dialogue

Write how people actually speak (with some editing).

You want your characters to sound like real people. Real people don’t always speak in complete sentences or use proper grammar. So when you’re writing dialogue, break grammatical rules as you need to. 

That said, your dialogue needs to still be readable. If the grammar is so bad that readers don’t understand what your characters are saying, they’ll probably just stop reading your story. Even if your characters speak in poor grammar, using punctuation marks correctly, even when they’re in the wrong places, will help readers understand the characters.

Here’s a quick example: 

“I. Do. Not. WANT. to go back to boarding school!” Caleb shouted. 

See how the period after each word forces your brain to stop and read each word as if it were its own sentence? The periods are doing what they’re supposed to do; they just aren’t being used to end sentences like periods typically do. Here’s another example of a character using bad grammar but the author using proper punctuation to make the dialogue understandable: 

“Because no,” she said into the phone. “I need a bigger shed to store all my stuff in . . . yeah, no, that’s not gonna work for me, I told you what I need and now you gotta make it happen.”

Less is more

When you’re editing your characters’ dialogue, cut back all the parts that add nothing to the story. Real-life conversations are full of small talk and filler. Next time you read a story, take note of how little small talk and filler is in the dialogue. There’s a reason why TV characters never say “good-bye” when they hang up the phone: the “good-bye” adds nothing to the storyline. Dialogue should characterize people and their relationships, and it should also advance the plot. 

Vary up your tags, but don’t go wild with them

“We love basketball!” he screamed.

“Why are you screaming?” the coach asked.

“Because I’m just so passionate about basketball!” he replied.

Dialogue tags show us a character’s tone. It’s good to have a variety of dialogue tags in your work, but there’s also nothing wrong with using a basic tag like “said” when it’s the most accurate way to describe how a character delivered a line. Generally, it’s best to keep your tags to words that describe actual speech, like:

You’ve probably come across more unconventional tags like “laughed” and “dropped.” If you use these at all, use them sparingly. They can be distracting to readers, and some particularly pedantic readers might be bothered because people don’t actually laugh or drop their words. 

Give each character a unique voice (and keep them consistent)

If there is more than one character with a speaking role in your work, give each a unique voice. You can do this by varying their vocabulary, their speech’s pace and rhythm, and the way they tend to react to dialogue.

Keep each character’s voice consistent throughout the story by continuing to write them in the style you established. When you go back and proofread your work, check to make sure each character’s voice remains consistent—or, if it changed because of a perspective-shifting event in the story, make sure that this change fits into the narrative and makes sense. One way to do this is to read your dialogue aloud and listen to it. If something sounds off, revise it. 

Dialogue examples

Inner dialogue.

As I stepped onto the bus, I had to ask myself: why was I going to the amusement park today, and not my graduation ceremony? 

He thought to himself, this must be what paradise looks like. 

Outer dialogue

“Mom, can I have a quarter so I can buy a gumball?”

Without skipping a beat, she responded, “I’ve dreamed of working here my whole life.”

“Ren, are you planning on stopping by the barbecue?” 

“No, I’m not,” Ren answered. “I’ll catch you next time.”

Here’s a tip: Grammarly’s  Citation Generator  ensures your essays have flawless citations and no plagiarism. Try it for citing dialogue in Chicago , MLA , and APA styles.

Dialogue FAQs

What is dialogue.

Dialogue is the text that represents the spoken word. 

How does dialogue work?

Dialogue expresses exactly what a character is saying. In contrast, a narrator might paraphrase or describe a character’s thoughts or speech. 

What are different kinds of dialogue?

Inner dialogue is the dialogue a character has inside their own head. Often, it’s referred to as an inner monologue. 

Outer dialogue is a conversation between two or more characters. 

How is dialogue formatted?

Inner dialogue simply fits into the narrative prose. 

Outer dialogue is marked by quotation marks and a few other formatting guidelines. These include:

dialogue writing in english grammar

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English Conversation Dialogues: Grammar Rules and Writing Tips

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When writing dialogue, it is important to adhere to specific grammar rules. Not following traditional grammar rules could create confusion for the reader and thus make it difficult to understand who is speaking or what is being said. Correct use of quotation marks, commas, periods, capitalization, and paragraph separation will create clear, purposeful dialogues. Paying particular attention to grammar and mechanics will improve your writing regardless of purpose, style, or genre. However, paying particular attention to grammar rules for dialogue will help your characters’ conversations flow from the page. The reader will be aware of who is speaking without having to backtrack or stumble. Brush up on your grammar and improve writing skills with this course .

Quotation Marks

Words, phrases, and sentences that are being spoken must be contained inside quotation marks. Be sure to place quotation marks around everything that is coming out of a person’s mouth. If a character is quoting something that another person/character spoke, a single quotation mark is used (inside the double quotations).

“I am going to the basketball game on Saturday if you would like to come along,” she said.

“Robbie, she asked me if I, ‘Would like to come along.’ Is this a date?”

In American English grammar, periods and commas go inside the quotation marks. Other punctuation marks such as semicolons, question marks, dashes, and exclamation points, go outside unless they pertain to the conversation in quotations.

If the quote is at the end of the sentence, a period should be placed inside the end quotation mark. If the quote does not end the sentence, a comma should be placed inside the end quotation mark and the sentence can be continued. Put a comma inside the ending quotation mark if there is a dialogue tag after what the person says. A dialogue tag shows who is speaking (he said/she said). Use a period or exclamation point if there is no dialogue tag following the quote.

Cally said, “Have a nice day.”

“Have a nice day,” Cally said.

Question Marks

If the speaker is asking a question, the question mark belongs inside the quotation. If the question is not included in what the speaker is voicing, it should be placed at the end of the sentence, outside of the quotation marks.

I asked Cally, “Would you like to see a movie tonight?”

Was she telling the truth when she exclaimed, “I already have plans.”?

Commas separate the spoken dialogue from the rest of the sentence. Usually, the person is identified before or after speaking with a dialogue tag. Dialogue tags are separated with a comma. Also, actions or descriptions are included within dialogue to provide more details to the sentence. Additional information is also separated by a comma.

“You look lovely,” I said when she answered the door.

I could smell her perfume as she leaned forward and whispered, “Thank you.”

Use commas or periods after dialogue tags depending on where they are in the sentence. If the dialogue tag appears before the person’s words or in the middle of two sets of words, the tag requires a comma. If it appears at the end of the sentence, it requires a period. Dialogue tags such as he said or she said should never use an exclamation point. Properly punctuating will help with text clarity and consistency — both important when conveying your message to an audience. The course, Quality Paragraph and Essay Writing  will instruct you on how to write with unity, coherence, and clarity.

Capitalization and Paragraphs

Start a new paragraph each time a person speaks.  This separates the characters to distinguish who is speaking and create a natural flow for the reader. A dialogue tag (he said/she said) does not need to be used every time someone speaks. Therefore, it is necessary to start new paragraphs to make it clear who is speaking during a verbal exchange.Interjections, words that express emotion, are usually found within exchanges of dialogue. Read this article on interjections  to see some examples of interjections and how to properly punctuate when using them.

Dialogue Grammar Recap

 How Dialogue Enhances Writing

Dialogue reveals information about the speaker(s) within a written work. Dialogue also enhances the story line and plot. Do you need some guidance on characterization and other literary elements when it comes to fiction writing?  Young Adult Fiction Writing Workshop teaches the techniques of writing young adult novels through step by step lessons and practice. The following types of information are revealed to improve character development and storyline through the use of dialogue:

Through indirect characterization, dialogue reveals details about a character by what they say, how they say it, and perhaps what they choose not to say.

A character’s word choice, description of tone, and choice of language reveal the inner state of the character without directly “telling” the audience. Showing instead of telling creates a deeper understanding of the character through the eyes of the reader or audience.

Dialogue can illuminate a character’s internal motivation or desires.

Seeing how a character addresses and responds to other characters shows the type of relationships that they form and where their relationships currently stand. Dialogue can demonstrate how relationships change throughout the course of the story. It can show how a character changes or responds to various situations.

Dialogue can move the plot or change the direction of the plot through conflict. Dialogue also adds drama and suspense. A character’s words also support and develop a theme for the work.

Instead of boring the reader with an excessive amount of details through exposition, it is nice to include some information through dialogue. Remember, not to overdo this. Your details should come across in a natural manner. If you are having trouble transferring your ideas to the page, you may want to take a step back and reevaluate or review what information is important to include and establish the best method(s) to convey this information. This creative writing course from Udemy shows you how to transform your ideas into literary works.

There are certain instances in which dialogue does NOT enhance writing. It is important to use dialogue where it will be effective for your purpose as an author. If overused or used unnecessarily, dialogue could be doing your writing a disservice.

When writing dialogue, ask yourself the following questions:

Dialogue should not be used to for the following reasons:

6 Tips for Writing Dialogue

As a writer, dialogue can be a helpful tool to build better characters, establish action, and carry out meaningful themes. If you are writing, keep in mind that using dialogue could enhance your message or purpose. For writing techniques to jump start the writing process, check out this article . If you are still having trouble getting started, the course, How to Overcome Writer’s Block  , offers 18 different exercises to help you overcome writer’s block and increase confidence and productivity. Remember, the most effective writing sounds natural yet contains a specific purpose — a purpose that remains an essential piece of a larger plan.

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