How to Write Dialogue: Formatting, Examples, & Tips

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 base place. We wanted to give writers the skills and cognition they needed to take an estimate and turn it into a bestselling novel ( and evening 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 negotiation, even the best plot or koran ideas will fall flat. Your efforts for successfully publishing a ledger that reads well will be ineffective. Writing well is the cornerstone of marketing your bible. ultimately, your lector ’ sulfur reviews of your book will hold system of weights.

Because if the dialogue is bad… Readers will put the book down ( because the negotiation is much what readers pay the most attention to ) .
But if you ’ re not certain how to write dialogue in a way that is not onlynatural but besides works as a catalyst within your book, the march of writing a reserve can be tied 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 template, dialogue writing activity, PLUS 100 words to replace “ said ”. Start writing better dialogue NOW !

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You can ’ metric ton write a koran without dialogue—and you can ’ thyroxine write a good record without effective negotiation ( 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 besides 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 capital negotiation ? Let ’ s get started .

Basic Dialogue Rules All Writers Should Follow

Before we get into the actual format and styles of writing dialogue ( along with some tips for making sure it ’ second good negotiation ), let ’ s go over some of the common and universal rules for writing negotiation in any script genre .
Here are the main rules for writing dialogue:

  1. Each speaker gets a new paragraph. Every time someone speaks, you show this by creating a new paragraph. Yes, even if your characters are only saying one word, they get new paragraphs.
  2. Each paragraph is indented. The only exception for this is if it’s the start of a chapter or after a scene break, where the first line is never indented, including with dialogue.
  3. Punctuation for what’s said goes inside the quotation marks. Any time the punctuation is a part of the person speaking, they go inside the quotes so the reader knows how the dialogue is said.
  4. Long speeches with several paragraphs don’t have end quotations. You’ll see more on this below, but overall, if one character is speaking for so long they have separate paragraphs, the quotation marks on the end are removed, but you start the next paragraph with them.
  5. Use single quotes if the person speaking is quoting someone else. If you have a character who says, “Man, don’t you love it when girls say, ‘I’m fine’?”, the single quotes indicate what someone else says.
  6. Skip the small talk and focus on important information only. Unless that small talk is relevant for character development, skip it and get to the point, this isn’t real life and will actually feel more fake if you have too much.

Dialogue Punctuation and Format

When it comes to book format, dialogue is one of the most unmanageable to get right .
It ’ s not that it ’ second particularly 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 by rights format it .
therefore, it ’ s easy to get confuse or forget which format you should use for which line of dialogue .
The basics for the format of dialogue is that each meter a raw person speaks, it ’ s a new paragraph with quotes around what they said .
In club to in full understand how to format dialogue, you have to know how to punctuate it by rights, 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 program, but the more exploit for your editor program, the more expensive they ’ ll be .
Plus, it ’ randomness crucial that, as serious writers and future authors, you know how to punctuate dialogue no topic what .
That besides means editors will be able to focus on more building complex edits rather of precisely punctuation .
Dialogue punctuation is complex and takes some time to learn, understand, and maestro .
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 negotiation are among the easiest to write and remember. The punctuation for this dialogue is simpleton :
The quotations go on the away of both the words and end-of-dialogue punctuation ( in this case a time period, but it ’ s the same for a comma, motion punctuate, or exclamation indicate ) .

Example: “ You actually shouldn ’ thyroxine have done that. ”

how to write dialogue example No matter what other punctuation you have, whether it ’ s a doubt mark or exclamation point, it will go on the inside of the quotations.

Dialogue Example 2: Single line with a dialogue tag

In this font, “ chase ” 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:

  • He said
  • She whispered
  • They bellowed
  • He hollered
  • They sniped
  • She huffed
  • He cooed
  • They responded

In the exercise below, you can see that the negotiation tag goes on the external of the quotations, while the comma goes on the inside .

Example: “ You actually shouldn ’ triiodothyronine have done that, ” he whispered .

dialogue tag example This is the font with any dialogue tags that are used. You can besides see how this negotiation 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 character of the overall sentence .

Dialogue Example 3: Questions

Because a question bell ringer seems like the end of a sentence, it ’ mho easy for most writers to get the format for questions when writing negotiation faulty .
But it ’ sulfur actually reasonably easy. basically, a question marker will be treated as a comma or period. What changes the format most is what follows the dialogue .

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

Here are some examples of writing questions in dialogue:

  • “Will you ever stop being a child?” she asked.
  • “What about that man over there?” he whispered, pointing in a old gentleman’s direction. “Doesn’t he look odd too?”
  • “What’s the big deal, anyway?” she huffed.

writing dialogue question example In this case 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 inaugural bible in the negotiation tag ( unless it ’ s a person ’ s name ) .
however, if there is merely an natural process after the question, the question chump acts as a period and you will then capitalize the first son in the adjacent sentence .

Dialogue Example 4: Dialogue Tag, then single line

When it comes to formatting dialogue tags before your character talk, it ’ s basically the same as when they come after, except backward .
As you can see in the exercise above, the dialogue tag is in front, followed by a comma outside of the quotations. then the quotations appear when the conviction starts with that conviction ’ sulfur punctuation inside the quotations at the end .

Example: He last said, “ Fine. Let ’ s precisely go for it. ”

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

  • They hung their head and mumbled, “It’s fine if you don’t want me to come.”
  • She huffed, “Well that’s just great, isn’t it?”
  • He drew in a long breath and spoke, “I’m just not sure what to do anymore.”

how to write dialogue punctuation example

Dialogue Example 5: Body language description

There are a couple of different types of body linguistic process 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 actual life, this would indicate person pausing to complete the legal action .

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

Here’s what this dialogue example looks like:

  • “Are you sure we should go this weekend?” She shoved the curtain aside, sneering at the greying clouds. “It could be a mess out there.”
  • “What’s the big deal, anyway?” He yanked the sheet from the envelope. “It’s not like you cared for her all that much.”
  • “Let’s go to the moon!” She twirled, her pale pink dress lifting around her. “We could make it, I know we could.”

Below is a detail explanation of how you would format this type of negotiation :
how to write dialogue format

Variation 2:

With this dialogue format, it ’ sulfur unlike because this is when a character does something while they are speaking, rather of pausing like in variation 1. The action happens in the center of a sentence and has to be formatted as such .

Example: “ I don ’ triiodothyronine see what ” —she tossed a braid over her shoulder— ” the boastful deal is. ”

Here are some dialogue examples of this formatting:

  • “It’s really just”—he rubbed his hand over his stubble—”the most frustrating thing I can think of.”
  • “If you’re not going to”—she grabbed his face—”at least listen to me, I don’t see the point in even trying.”

You can see the proper format for this dialogue below :
how to write dialogue em dash You would use this to help build a clearer persona and communicate the view to match how it is in your drumhead .
This is besides the encase when characters have inner thoughts within their dialogue, as seen in the second model in mutant 2 .

Dialogue Example 6: Single line getting cut off

Something that happens in real life ( sometimes an irritatingly big measure ) is getting cut off or interrupted when you ’ rhenium address .
This typically happens when person either doesn ’ thymine care what you ’ re talking about or when two people are in an controversy 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 exercise that you place an Em Dash ( — ) right at the end of the prison term, followed by the citation marks .
You ’ ll treat this format of negotiation much like exercise 1, a individual telephone line of dialogue .

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

Another common type of dialogue. This is basically a shuffle of a single cable with a dialogue tag .

Example: “ You truly shouldn ’ thyroxine have done that, ” she murmured. “ That will get you in a lot of trouble. ”

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

Dialogue Example 8: Paragraphs of dialogue

There are certain situations that call for a individual character to speak for a farseeing time. however, grammatically, not all of what they say will belong in the lapp paragraph .

Example: single speaker “ It ’ s not that I don ’ metric ton think you should have done that. not precisely. “ actually, I think it might be a great thing for you to have done. I ’ meter merely worried about what will happen future and how that will impact everyone else. ”

how to write dialogue paragraph For writing dialogue paragraph, you want to leave the quotations off the end of the paragraph and begin the future paragraph with them in arrange to indicate that the same person is precisely telling a long narrative.
[ NOTE: These dialogue rules apply to American English. other parts of the world may use different dialogue format, 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 diagram fore and increase scheme international relations and security network ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate easy .
But that ’ sulfur 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 feel veridical but is besides effective for moving your fib ahead .

#1 – Say it out loud first

One of the easiest and best ways to see if your dialogue sounds naturalistic is to read it out loudly, particularly if you are writing a writing style that would benefit from such an approach .
Hearing what person is supposed to say ( since your readers will imagine them speaking out loud ) will allow you to determine if it sounds substantial 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 ’ mho all right ! dialogue should have more “ weight ” than what you say in real life .
even so, it has to sound like something person would actually say. If you feel yourself cringing a little or you can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate imagine a real person saying it, you might have to do some editing .
Ask these questions when reading your dialogue out loud to yourself:

  1. Would someone actually say this in real life?
  2. Does it move the plot forward or develop a character?
  3. Is it easy to say or do you fumble over the sentence?
  4. Do you pause in certain areas where you haven’t written commas? (Note: if this happens, put in some commas so the readers interpret it how you hear it!)

Extra dialogue peak : phonograph 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 ’ metric ton concern about what your characters had for dinner end night—unless that dinner had been poisoned and is now seeping into their bloodstream, impacting their immediate risk .
Talking about the weather or your character ’ mho pet or anything fiddling will read as bore and unnecessary .
This besides slows down your fresh ’ mho pace .
One exception may be if your characters are stalling in order to avoid talking about something that is major and impactful to the plat. When it ’ south used as a literary device to set the mood or tone of a scene, it ’ sulfur acceptable .

#3 – Keep it brief and impactful

dialogue in books is not meant to read in the way we actually speak—not full moon conversations, at least. If it did, each book would be exceptionally longer, due in part to the fact that humans frequently say a batch of pointless things .
When it comes to writing dialogue in your book, you have to keep it briefer and more poignant than in very life .
A great means to get to the kernel of the dialogue is to cut out everything that doesn ’ thyroxine immediately impact the setting .
A agile, “ Hey, how ’ s it going ? ” international relations and security network ’ t necessity unless the other character ’ randomness submit is vital to the scene. This, however, doesn ’ metric ton include if your quality is meeting person for the first time, obviously. Again, focus on writing the scene in a way that informs the dialogue .
basically, anything that does not far develop your character, the plot, or any subplots should be cut .

#4 – Give each character a unique way of speaking

I ’ thousand certain you ’ ve noticed by now, but not everyone speaks in the same way. We all have a particular “ hang ” to our sentences and we all have favored words we prefer to use.

This is actually a boastful partially of character development in your novel .
For model, possibly people will use “ possibly ” or “ possibly ” but not often both in adequate amounts. This is a very little detail, but it does a long direction in developing the characters and giving them their own voice .
Another manner you can do this is with prison term social organization .
Does your character address in short, chopped sentences ? Or do they articulately describe their point of view in long-winded, craft sentences that ebb and flow with their tone of part ?
Do they use a lot of analogies and metaphors when explaining things or is this character highly literal and gets mighty 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 ’ south best acquaintance speaks similarly to them, that ’ s o. As humans, we subconsciously pick up on the lecture patterns of those closest to us – those we speak to regularly ( like when we use exchangeable gull in our friend group that others may not use ) .

#5 – Add world-appropriate slang

A major part of the negotiation that much gets overlooked is the gull .
even in our own global, newfangled slang is developed every day and sometimes, the words might seem crazy or even confusing .
Take the term “ fleek ” for example. This news looks like it would be a ruck of some sort of animal .
But in fact, it ’ s a word being “ on compass point ” or “ sharp. ”
The decimal point is, creating unique slang for your global can add to the dialogue and tell you more about the characters who use it, not to mention build your populace effortlessly .
here ’ s an exercise 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 clock :

#6 – Be consistent with characters’ voices

It wouldn ’ t make feel for your character to flop the way they speak unless they ’ ra talking to person specific ( which we cover in the future topple ) .
The main theme is that if one character talk in choppy sentences, it should remain that way unless the moment changes to something that would require something more elegant .
At the lapp time, you want to make sure your characters are using consistent language .
Like in the tips in # 4, if they use a specific password more frequently, make indisputable they use that news whenever they should in order to maintain a coherent voice .

#7 – Think about who they’re speaking to

You don ’ thymine address in the same direction around every single person .
Your articulation and stylus variety depending on who you ’ rhenium chatting with. For model, you ’ re going to talk differently to your ma than you would to your best ally .
While it ’ s important to be coherent with your character ’ s stylus and voice, it ’ s besides all-important to think about the who when it comes to their dialogue and adjust consequently .

#8 – Keep long speech paragraphs to a minimum

rarely do people speak for a very retentive prison term uninterrupted. It might be crucial for your character to say something drawn-out but remember to at least split it up with body linguistic process and other means of giving your reader a break .
These can feel identical long-winded and end up slowing down the pace of your book, which can be great if you use them for this purpose .
One means to break up long paragraph if one person is speaking for a while ( like when they ’ re telling a history of sorts ) is to add in the other characters ’ consistency speech reactions .
But if you ’ re trying to move your plot along at a regular rate, avoid long lecture paragraph .

#9 – Cut the hellos and goodbyes

Greetings are absolutely necessity in veridical life. In your book ? not so a lot .
Your readers know enough to assume there was a greet of some sort. In addition, these aren ’ t normally pivotal parts of your reserve and consequently, aren ’ t necessity 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 ’ megabyte finely, you know. Same erstwhile, lapp old. ” “ Ah, I feel ya. Anything new in your world ? ” “ not actually, to tell you the accuracy. ”

Cutting these will help speed up your pace equally 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 negotiation .
Think about it : how do we learn about raw people when we meet them ? Through what they say .
You could meet person wholly modern and based on the switch over, you actually learn a lot about who they are and how they operate in life .
You discover if they ’ re shy, bold, dull, or kindhearted and soft-spoken .
Your dialogue should do the very same for your characters .
here ’ s an exemplar of what this would look like :
She let stray strands fall in front man of her boldness as she looked down and scuff something sticky on the sidewalk. Do you actually think therefore ?” Her voice was soft, her eyes still fixed on the ground alternatively of the modern guy stand in front of her .

This example shows you what the character looks like in a specific situation and consequently, we gather facts about what she ’ s like .
For one, she ’ randomness shy—as much is seen by her avoiding eye liaison even as she speaks .

Common Dialogue Mistakes to Avoid

We all make mistakes. But if you want to become a promulgated writer ( or merely write a great book ), you can ’ triiodothyronine make these major ones within your bible ’ south negotiation .

#1 – Using the person’s name repeatedly

It ’ mho tempting to make your characters call each early ’ s names frequently. however, this international relations and security network ’ metric ton how we talk in real life .
Unless we ’ re trying to get their attention or are emphasizing ( or warning ! ) a target, we don ’ t say their name .

How not to write dialogue:

“ Rebecca, I in truth needed you and you weren ’ thyroxine there. ”
“ I ’ m deplorable, Ashley. I was just busy with school and work. ” 
“ Okay, but that ’ s not a thoroughly apologize 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 ’ metric ton understand. however, it gets identical boring and unrealistic when that ’ s all they do .
Your world should unfold gradually to the reader through express and not telling .
In the case of dialogue, this worldbuilding is all “ tell ” and no picture. And this works sometimes, particularly if a fictional character is telling another quality about something they don ’ thymine even know .
fair keep this to a minimal and use other methods of worldbuilding to show your readers the earth you ’ ve created .

#3 – Avoid repetitive dialogue tags

There ’ second nothing quite angstrom annoying as reading negotiation tags over and over…and over again .
It ’ s a surefire means 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 truly needed you and you weren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate there, ” Ashley said .
“ I ’ megabyte deplorable. I was good interfering with school and bring, ” Rebecca replied .
“ Okay, but that ’ s not a good excuse, ” she huffed.
“ You ’ re veracious. It ’ s not, ” Rebecca whispered .

#4 – Avoid repetitive dialogue styles

This means that if you have the like dialogue format for a few lines, you need to change it up because differently, it will be very bore to your readers .
You can see in the point above, using only dialogue tags at the end is very boring. The lapp applies for repeated other types as well .
For case, read through each of these and you can get a feel for the monotony you want to avoid within the recur formats .
Bad Dialogue Example 1 : dialogue tags in the front man
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 negotiation
“ I ’ megabyte just not certain ” —she grabbed a handful of seeds— “ that you ’ re taking this badly. ”
“ What ? ” He weaved between the overgrown plants, pushing them apart. “ Why would you think that ? ”
“ Because you— ” she plunged her finger into the pot with soil— “ just ignore the authoritative stuff unless it ’ sulfur important to you only. ”
“ That ’ randomness ridiculous. ” He craned his neck around a calla lily. “ That ’ s not dependable. ”
Bad Dialogue Example 3 : rag in the middle
“ I very wish you would precisely talk to me, ” Ada said. “ This silent discussion international relations and security network ’ thymine 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 ’ thyroxine think anything can solve this problem, ” he murmured. “ It ’ mho permanent wave. ”
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 induct .
One exception is when you have two characters going spinal column and away very promptly. In this case, a few lines of dialogue only, with no tags or anything, is acceptable.
Fixing Dialogue Example : variation is Key
“ I ’ thousand just not sure ” —she grabbed a handful of seeds— “ that you ’ re taking this badly. ”
He weaved between the overgrow plants, pushing them aside. “ Why would you think that ? ”
“ Because…you just ignore the important stuff unless it ’ randomness authoritative to you only. ”
“ That ’ south absurd. ”
“ ordinal number ” She plunged her feel into the batch with soil, dropping in a few seeds. “ It ’ mho genuine. ”
a lot like with anything that has rules, there are always exceptions .
The most important contribution of these rules is knowing them .
once you know the rules and why they ’ ra there, you can break with purpose – rather of doing sol on accident .

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