How to Write Great Dialogue That Your Readers Will Love

As a writer, there are times you’ll have to write…

As a writer, there are times you’ll have to write dialogue in your essays or fiction. In such a case, knowing how to write grammatically correct dialogue is important.

How to Use Commas in Dialogue

Commas are the basic building blocks of dialogue. Commas should be between your opening quotes when writing dialogue. This rule has exceptions. For instance, you do not need a comma when you introduce text with a conjunction such as ‘that ‘or ‘whether’.

Use commas when your character has spoken a sentence. This may be one of the few cases where a sentence doesn’t end with a full stop.

When a tag comes after dialogue, then use a comma before the closing quote when you would normally use a period. We discuss tags further down.

If there is no tag, then you can end the character’s spoken sentence with a full stop. This rule applies only applies to them.

Avoid omitting extra punctuation that adds meaning or clarity to a sentence, such as an exclamation point or question mark. We’ll discuss how these are used in dialogue next.

Using Question Marks and Exclamation Marks in Dialogue

In most cases, question marks and exclamation marks fall inside quotation marks when used. Depending on the meaning you want to convey, sometimes we place these marks outside of the closing quotation mark.

Direct and Indirect Speech in Dialogue

Understanding direct and indirect speech is indispensable when learning how to write grammatically correct grammar.

When a character in your story is speaking directly, what they say is set off in quotation marks. This only happens with direct dialogue.

Meanwhile, indirect dialogue is a recap of what one of the characters said.

Single lines of direct dialogue do not require a dialogue tag. On the other hand, multi-line direct dialogue, such as when character is talking to another, requires a dialogue tag.

Dialogue tags are phrases. Examples are “he said” or “she said”. They go before, comes after or appear in the middle of a bit of dialogue.

This lets the reader knows who the speaker is. They can also tell how the speaker’s mood as they speak.

Use Open Quotation Marks If Your Dialogue Takes up Several Paragraphs

Dialogue that takes up multiple paragraphs should open with a quote. However, the closing quotation mark does not appear until the last paragraph.

Each new paragraph begins with an opening quotation though.

Use an Em Dash When Your Characters Dialogue Is Interrupted

If your character is surprised, cut off or otherwise interrupted, you should use an em dash

You can tell the em dash because it’s longer than a hyphen. When the speaker stops speaking on their own or is interrupted., an em dash indicates that the dialogue stops abruptly. They are placed inside the closing quotation marks.

To Wrap Up

We hope we’ve cleared any confusion about how to punctuate your dialogue. These short rules on how to write grammatically correct dialogue should start you off in the right direction.

Frequently asked questions

How do you write a scene with a lot of dialogue?

  • Keep it very tight and avoid unnecessary words.
  • The power of hitting beats and driving momentum.
  • Make it oblique, where characters never seem to reply directly to each other.
  • Embodied character dynamics and emotion.
  • Discourse tags should be simple.
  • Ensure you are punctuating correctly.
  • Make note of accents.

What is effective dialogue?

An effective dialogue requires equal standing, respect, empathy, and that ideas and assumptions be explored openly and without judgement. The focus is on common interests, not divisions in dialogue.

What are the features of a good dialogue?

Good dialogue has the following qualities: 1) keeps the story or novel going; 2) reveals the characters; 3) is believable; 4) is interesting to read. Your own speech is the most important source of your dialogue. All your life, you’ve been practicing dialogue.

How do you write a good dialogue closer look?

How can I make my dialogue more natural?

  • You should think of dialogue as action, not narrative. What great action scenes do is move the story along and engage the reader in dialogue.
  • A character can be revealed in your dialogue.
  • Do not reveal everything in your dialogue.
  • Let your dialogue start and stop naturally.

What are some good dialogue tags?

List of acceptable dialogue tags (according to the aforementioned teachers)
inquiredinterruptedmumbled
mutterednaggedquestioned
rememberedrepliedroared
sangscreamedsighed

How do you write dialogue like Aaron Sorkin?

  • Initial intention and obstacle.
  • Character traits that directly relate to the overall story should be given.
  • Be an advocate of structure-it can actually make you more creative.
  • Three-act story arcs for your screenplay.
  • You should read your dialogue out loud.

How do you start a dialogue essay?

Citations should be placed at the start of a speech. As soon as the direct speech is delivered, the closing quotation marks will appear. Do not add them after each paragraph. Separate a dialogue tag between two characters’ phrases in one sentence with commas.

How do you write captivating dialogue?

  • Bones trimmed
  • Reveal Backstory
  • Reveal Character
  • Be Subtle
  • Read Your Talk Out Loud.
  • Create a moment called “Make My Day.”.

How do you write an amazing dialogue?

  • Keep it brief. Having a dialogue shouldn’t go over pages and pages.
  • Avoid small talk. It is music to my introverted ears.
  • Don’t info dump
  • Give your characters an interesting way to communicate.
  • Be consistent
  • Create suspense
  • Honor the relationship
  • Show, don’t tell
How to Write Great Dialogue That Your Readers Will Love

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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