AllCreative WritingWriting Tips

Advice on Writing and Formatting Dialogue

By May 8, 2019 June 22nd, 2019 No Comments

Hello Writers and Readers, and welcome to a new article on the ways of dialogue. One skill that we here at the All The Writing HQ, are also seeking to learn more about, and since you’re here we can assume either you would also like to learn more, or you love us and read everything we post, in which case we love you to friend. For those of you unaware, dialogue is when two or more characters are conversing between each other, and it is a very useful skill to know how to write dialogue in a creative work. And hopefully we can help you gain that skill, but not without a little bit of help from an article that will be linked under this paragraph, and at the bottom of the article. The article was written by Bella Rose Pope, and is titled appropriately as, How to Write Dialogue: A Master List of Grammar & Techniques. We will also be linking the website on which the article was posted. Enjoy!

Click here to go to the article.

Click here to go to the website where the article was posted.

Alright now that were done with the introductions and stuff we can finally begin the article! Hurray!

Dialogue is an essential part of every story, and even with the best of story-lines and plots your story will fail without good dialogue. And with the inability to write effective and realistic dialogue it can hinder the entirety of the writing process.

It is often very difficult to find out how to format dialogue properly, this is because there is no one way to do it, and there are multiple different punctuations needed for each different type. One rule that is set in stone, is that whenever a new person speaking, give them their own paragraph. Learning these different formats will help you in the future, because the more work you leave for an editor the more you have to pay that editor. And also the editor should be left to more complex issues within your writing, not just that you put a comma rather than a period,


The single line format is quite simple and straightforward. You put the spoken words inside of the quotation marks and capitalize the first letter, than finish with appropriate punctuation inside of quotations. See it’s mostly just common sense. The next level up is the single line with a dialogue tag. Dialogue tags are used to show who is speaking at any given time. They are formatted like a single line, but if the punctuation within the quotations is a comma or question mark the dialogue tag will start in lower case letters. Next is the dialogue tag before the sentence, with this one you write the tag with a comma on the end, then you start the quotation marks with a capital letter on the inside. The single line getting cut off is a format used when another character is being cut off by someone or something, this could be used in writing to show a characters lack of interest in a conversation, or also for an argument. With this one you put the em dash (—) inside of the quotations, and then start the next quotation a line lower and capitalized for the person who cut off the original dialogue. There is also the dialogue tag in the middle of a line, this is often used to indicate who is speaking in groups larger than two. This one is like a mix of both single line, and single line with dialogue tag, and to format it properly you must have 2 sentences that combine to form a finished thought, and end the first quote with a comma, then start the tag with a lower case letter. And then the final quote also starts again with a capital letter. And to finish off this section we will discuss the format of multiple paragraphs of dialogue, meaning when a character is giving a rather long speech or something to that effect. To accomplish this you just start writing and keep the basic rules within the quotation marks then once you are about to start a new paragraph don’t put another set of quotation marks unless it’s the last paragraph of dialogue for that character. Then once you start the next paragraph add another quotation mark to signify that the person is still talking.

There is also body language within a line, where an action is occurring in either 1 of 2 different ways. The first way is that you can use it to show action in between sentences. With this one you need two quotes on either side of an action, and both start capitalized, the action tag is also dialogue, seeing as it is not part of the dialogue. And the second way is when someone is doing something while talking, a common occurrence in real life. This one is one sentence so only the first quotation needs a capitalized letter, then once entering into the action tag you put the em dash. Same with the opposite side of the action tag, just surround that action tag on either side with em dashes. Then start up the continuation of the next sentence, but make sure it is not capitalized, because it is a part of the previous sentence.

The article gave a list of helpful ways on how to write both effective and realistic dialogue, we suggest you read through the article for a fuller breakdown, as we are just putting it into a numbered list with little information.

How to Write Realistic and Effective Dialogue:

  1. Say what you’ve written out loud to get a sense of if it sounds right
  2. Get rid of small talk unless it is being used to set a tone or mood, otherwise it is uninteresting and unnecessary
  3. Keep the dialogue brief and impactful to keep story flowing
  4. Give each character their own way of speaking so that a reader can identify the character just by the way they speak
  5. Put in world appropriate slang to build up your world and character
  6. Be consistent with a characters voice
  7. Think about who the character is speaking to, how would a character differ between talking to their mom and their best friend
  8. Keep long speech paragraphs to a minimum
  9. Cut the hellos and goodbyes of conversation, as your reader can assume where there was supposed to be a greeting.
  10. Show who your character is through dialogue

In writing there are a slew of common mistakes, we will be covering the ones specific to dialogue. One mistake is using a character’s name to often in the dialogue, no body says a person’s name that often, they only really say names when they are trying to catch their attention. It is okay to have some explanation through dialogue, but as soon as it becomes an info dump, then you have to edit just a little bit. Remember that you want to unravel your world slowly and meaningfully, not just thrown at the reader at the beginning. Make sure to avoid repetition in both dialogue tags and styles. Whenever you’re noticing that you have been using the same format for to long switch it up and possibly go back and edit. Adding variety in style and tags makes your book more enjoyable for readers.

And now that’s all we got on dialogue for today. We hope you found this useful and wish you success in your future dialogue attempts. Make sure to go visit the article we got most of our information from, as it has helpful visual models and examples, as well as a more depth explanation on some stuff we mentioned.

Click here to go to the article.

Click here to go to the website where the article was posted.

Hope you all enjoyed and see you Readers and Writers later!