- Tips on How to Write Dialogue in an Essay with Ease
- How to Format Dialogue: Examples and Writing Tips
What Is a Dialogue and Its Types?
How to format dialogue in an essay, quotation marks and capitalization.
Reporting Verbs and Dialogue Tags
How to quote a dialogue in an essay correctly, effective tips on dialog writing, final thoughts.
Sometimes adding a dialogue to an essay is the right way to improve the paper and receive a higher grade. Dialogue is a great device to describe the situation, characters, or emotions. Yet often, wrong formatting may adversely impact your piece of writing. This is a tricky aspect of a dialogue writing process, as it has so many nuances. This guide by Write My Essay 4 Me will help you learn how to format dialogue correctly and give a comprehensive list of writing, punctuation, and capitalization tips as well as perfect examples.
Dialogue is a written or spoken conversation between two or more people. It is widely incorporated in different written works, movies, and even computer games.
Writing dialogue in an essay will surely brighten up the story and captivate the reader. However, in terms of academic writing, it can be used in one essay type only; namely, the narrative essay. If you decide to add it to your essay, keep it realistic, clear, and to the point as well as format dialogue appropriately. If you are looking for a simple shortcut, you can pay to 'write my essay'. In case you want to find out useful tips, just keep on reading.
There are two types of dialogues you should keep in mind:
- Inner dialogues are used to convey what characters say to themselves or think.
- Outer dialogues are even more wide-spread and happen between several characters in the story.
Quite often students receive assignments to analyze or reflect on stories or books. They might add quotations from these sources as evidence. At this point, it is important to understand the difference between a direct and indirect quote. Both use information from the original source, but the difference is in presentation.
Writing dialogue that is clear and informative requires the knowledge of a set of formatting rules. You should understand how to punctuate dialogue correctly to convey the meaning properly. Check the rules to learn how to write dialogue correctly to make your piece of writing flawless.
- Use a comma after the dialogue tags that precedes direct speech.
- Use colon to introduce direct speech that expresses a finished idea or sentence.
- Do not add a comma after the direct quote that precedes a dialogue tag if the direct speech ends with its specific punctuation (i.e. full stop, exclamation or question marks, etc.).
- In case the quoted speech is too long, divide it into multiple paragraphs. Use quotation marks appropriately. Opening quotation marks should be placed at the beginning of the speech. Closing quotation marks go at the very end of the direct speech. Avoid adding them after every paragraph.
- Do not add any punctuation marks after the closing quotation marks if the direct speech ends with ellipsis. Ellipses (three dots) are used when you omit some information from the quote.
- Em dashes that indicate abrupt ending of a dialogue go inside the quotation marks. Do not mix up em dashes and hyphens.
- Avoid using either double or single quotes when you are introducing an indirect quote. It will be a mistake.
Dialogue tags or speech tags are short phrases that refer to the direct quote. They provide additional information on what the character is speaking about, help explain the emotion, and understand the context better. They can be placed either before, in the middle, or after the direct quotation. These short phrases are also part of indirect speech.
When using indirect quotes, students tend to overuse word say and tell to present every. However, there exist multiple words that could help describe the dialogue better. Check the list of useful verbs to use in your dialogue tangs and indirect quotes.
Students are always required to cite the sources they have used in paper. These can either be long or short direct quotes, dialogues, or paraphrase. Dialogue punctuation depends on the formatting style. The most common are MLA and APA. Although, there are other styles such as Chicago and ASA format . Let's have a look at the rules to punctuate dialogue and direct quotes correctly.
When quoting a dialogue in MLA format, you should pay attention to the following requirements.
- When adding a direct quote, always mention the author and page number it is taken from.
- If you add words to a quotation, add brackets around them to show they are not part of the original text.
- If the quotation is too long or contains irrelevant information for you add ellipsis to indicate some information was omitted.
- When adding indirect quotes, do not add either double or single quotation marks.
Mind the following dialogue rules when formatting quotations in APA format.
- If a character’s quote is short, put both the quote and the dialogue tags in the same line.
- When adding a quote that is longer than 40 words, first, introduce the source and the author. Put a colon and add a quote as a new paragraph. The whole quote should be indented, and no quotation marks are needed. Mention the page quote is taken from in brackets just at the end of the quotation.
- If a character’s words span more than one paragraph, put quotation marks at the beginning of paragraphs as well as at the end of the quote.
- Indirect quote in APA does not require the use of quotation marks. The dialogue tags initiate the character’s part.
- Use quotation marks at the beginning and end of each quotation.
- Every quote starts from a new line of dialogue.
- Separate direct speech from dialogue tags using corresponding punctuation marks.
- Use different placing of dialogue tags (before, in the middle, after a quote) to avoid repetitive structures.
- Original direct speech punctuation goes within quotation marks.
- Use different verbs in a dialogue tag.
- Formatting dialogue in APA and MLA is different.
- Differentiate between direct and indirect quotes.
- Don’t add quotation marks if you paraphrase.
- Use single quotation marks to add one direct quote within another.
We have a lot of useful blogs for our users. Read how to write an essay quickly and follow all these tips. Use our examples for writing different kinds of tasks.
Writing dialogue is a time consuming process. It has numerous tricky rules. Now that you know all the peculiarities of dialogue writing, such as dialogue tags, em dashes, quotation marks, it will not be a challenge for you to write dialogue. However, if you are not sure you can do it the right way, you may try writing assistance. Professional writers will help you save time and receive high grades.
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A Guide to Writing Dialogue, With Examples
“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:
- “NoOoOoOoO!” Maddie yodeled as her older sister tried to pry her hands from the merry-go-round’s bars.
- “So I says, ‘You wanna play rough? C’mere, I’ll show you playin’ rough!’”
- “Get out!” she shouted, playfully swatting at his arm. “You’re kidding me, right? We couldn’t have won . . . ”
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:
- All punctuation in a piece of dialogue goes inside the quotation marks.
- Quoted dialogue within a line of dialogue goes inside single quotation marks (“I told my brother, ‘Don’t do my homework for me.’ But he did it anyway!”). In UK English, quoted dialogue within a line of dialogue goes inside double quotation marks.
- Every time a new character speaks, start a new paragraph. This is true even when a character says only one word. Indent every new paragraph.
- When a character’s dialogue extends beyond a paragraph, use quotation marks at the beginning of the second and/or subsequent paragraph. However, there is no need for closing quotation marks at the end of the first paragraph—or any paragraph other than the final one.
- Example: “Thank you for—” “Is that a giant spider?!”
- “Every night,” he began, “I heard a rustling in the trees.”
- “Every day,” he stated. “Every day, I get to work right on time.”
Things to avoid when writing dialogue
When you’re writing dialogue, avoid these common pitfalls:
- Using a tag for every piece of dialogue: Dialogue tags are words like said and asked . Once you’ve established that two characters are having a conversation, you don’t need to tag every piece of dialogue. Doing so is redundant and breaks the reader’s flow. Once readers know each character’s voice, many lines of dialogue can stand alone.
- Not using enough tags: On the flip side, some writers use too few dialogue tags, which can confuse readers. Readers should always know who’s speaking. When a character’s mannerisms and knowledge don’t make that abundantly obvious, tag the dialogue and use their name.
- Dense, unrealistic speech: As we mentioned above, dialogue doesn’t need to be grammatically correct. In fact, when it’s too grammatically correct, it can make characters seem stiff and unrealistic.
- Anachronisms: A pirate in 1700s Barbados wouldn’t greet his captain with “what’s up?” Depending on how dedicated you (and your readers) are to historical accuracy, this doesn’t need to be perfect. But it should be believable.
- Eye dialect: This is an important one to keep in mind. Eye dialect is the practice of writing out characters’ mispronunciations phonetically, like writing “wuz” for “was.” Eye dialect can be (and has been) used to create offensive caricatures, and even when it’s not used in this manner, it can make dialogue difficult for readers to understand. Certain well-known instances of eye dialect, like “fella” for “fellow” and “‘em” for “them,” are generally deemed acceptable, but beyond these, it’s often best to avoid it.
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.
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.
“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.
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:
- A new, indented paragraph every time a new character speaks
- Punctuation inside the quotation marks
- Em dashes to communicate interruption
Back to all blog posts
How to Write Dialogue in an Essay
Dialogue is a spoken or written exchange between two or more people. The name comes from a Greek word διάλογος meaning “conversation”. The concept itself is very straightforward since everyone is having multiple conversations daily. However, it gets tricky when we try to convey dialogue in writing. You have to be very careful with punctuation and formatting, so as not to confuse your reader about who says what.
As a rule, dialogues aren’t present in the academic style, so they rarely can be found in college essays. However, there are some exceptions:
- Reflective essays
- Narrative essays
- Creative writing assignments
- Dialogue simulations used in Psychology, Business Management, and Education
- Interview transcripts you append to your research papers
Other types of essays may also creatively include short exchange as a personal anecdote for a hook.
You can also quote the dialogues from literature and film pieces you analyze. If this is the case, you must keep the punctuation and formatting of the original and cite the source properly.
Whatever the case, it’s important to know how to write a dialogue in an essay properly.
How To Write Dialogue in an Essay (MLA style guide)
- Each speaker gets new paragraph, however brief their line is
- Dialogue tags are separated by commas
- Punctuation of what is being said goes inside the quotation marks
- If one of the characters breaks into a long speech (several paragraphs), you should use opening quotation marks at the beginning of every paragraph. Do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the very last paragraph of that speech.
Is Dialogue Formatting Any Different in APA?
The APA dialogue formatting recommendations are just the same as the ones suggested by the MLA guide. The differences between APA and MLA norms are very slight and visible the most in the citation styles.
The confusion between citation and the dialogue sometimes occurs because both involve someone’s reported speech incorporated into your own text with the help of quotations marks. However, these two are very different and it’s important to know how to tell them apart.
- Is a representation of a conversation
- A literary device that usually can be found in a story
- Can be creatively used in narrative essays
- Is a way to report information from a source word for word
- Used to provide evidence or to support your claims
- Routinely used in argumentative writing
If you are confused about anything to do with writing, formatting, or particular aspects of academic style, don’t hesitate to contact our professional paper writers for clarification and examples.
Writing Dialogue in an Essay
If you are sure that dialogue is appropriate for your essay, for example, you are writing a personal statement for your college admission and want to include the conversation you had with a friend, then it’s very important to get the formatting right. Here are the general rules of writing dialogue in an essay:
1. Single line:
- quotations before the sentence starts
- punctuation inside the quotes
“Haven’t you ever sent out the laundry?”
“Is it there?”
“It most certainly is.”
“Well, I guess I haven’t, then.”
(F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The beautiful and Damned”)
2. Single line + dialogue tag (she responded, he said, they bellowed, Jane whispered, etc.)
- quotations before the sentence
- dialogue line and a tag are parts of a single sentence, so the tag starts with lowercase word
“I can’t help thinking about what it will look like,” he answered.
“The garden?” asked Mary.
“The springtime,” he said.
(Frances Hodgson Burnett, “The Secret Garden”)
3. Tag + single line
- comma before quotes
- the first word of the spoken phrase is capitalized
Catherine explained: “Oh! As to that, Papa and Mamma were in no hurry at all. As long as she was happy, they would always be satisfied.”
(Jane Austen, “Northanger Abbey”)
4. Tag inside the line:
- comma/question mark/exclamation point at the end of the interrupted line
- lowercase first word of the tag
- quotations again before the rest of the line
“What’s the danger?” asked Pippin. “Will he shoot at us, and pour fire out of the windows; or can he put a spell on us from a distance?”
(J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Two Towers”)
5. If single line gets cut off:
- em dash inside quotes to signify the dialogue being cut off
- the next dialogue line follows normally
“A rebel!” repeated Henry. “Yes; you and papa had quarreled terribly, and you set both him and mamma, and Mrs. Pryor, and everybody, at defiance. You said he had insulted you – “
“He had insulted me,” interposed Shirley.
(Charlotte Bronte, “Shirley”)
6. If a person in a dialogue quotes someone:
- single quotation marks for the quote inside the line
“Silly how people go on ‘I don’t know the first thing about dialogue formatting’ but never do anything about it,” I concluded this guide.
Confused? No wonder! Dialogue formatting often follows the intricate logic that is difficult to grasp at once. We can help you with that! Our writers have mastered all the minute details of dialogue formatting and can translate even the most subtle aspects of any exchange into writing.
Elissa Smart is an omnipotent demiurge behind PaperHelp's blog. Driven by seething creativity, not only she helps students with particular research and writing requests, but also finds the energy to share her extensive expertise via blog posts. A Barclay College graduate, Elissa puts her BA in Psychology & Family Studies and MA in Transformational Leadership degrees to good use, being of benefit to readers who are willing to learn from accomplished experts. She can also talk about boating on the Lake Superior by the hour, roots for Atlanta Falcons, and loves to sing in thick woods.
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How To Format Dialogue (includes examples)
7. If an action interrupts a sentence in the dialogue, use lower case on the first letter of the second fragment.
“I know,” he lowered his voice to a whisper, “what you said.”
8. If the same speaker talks long enough to require a new paragraph, place opening quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph. However, closing quotation marks are placed only at the end of the final paragraph.
Tom explained the details. “The thread is a remarkable silk-wool blend, a new fabric named Allurotique. Some people compare it to the most expensive commercially available silk, Pashmina Silk; but that comparison is off base. Pashmina silk is made by weaving wool from pashmina goats with a silk produced by worms that eat only mulberry leaves.
“Allurotique is blended, not woven. And it’s made from the most expensive silk and a exotic wool spun into a fabric with extraordinary qualities.
“The silk in Allurotique is muga silk, which has a natural shimmering gold color. It absorbs water better than other silks, making it more comfortable to wear. It’s has a number of other nifty features: it’s more durable than other silks, it’s almost impossible to stain and it gets shinier with wear.
“The wool in Allurotique is harvested from vicuñas, a South American animal related to llamas. Vicuña wool is softer, lighter and warmer than any other wool in the world. Since the animals can only be sheared once every three years, it’s rare and outlandishly expensive.”
Follow these examples, and you will soon format dialogue like a pro. Be sure to bookmark this page so you can find it fast.
If you have questions, corrections, or things that I’ve overlooked, please tell me in the comments below .
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How to Write Dialogue in a Narrative Paragraph
What is Dialogue?
How to write dialogue, how to punctuate your dialogue, periods and commas, question marks and exclamation points, final thoughts.
Dialogue is the written conversational exchange between two or more characters.
Conventional English grammar rules tell us that you should always start a new paragraph when someone speaks in your writing.
“Let’s get the heck out of here right now,” Mary said, turning away from the mayhem.
John looked around the pub. “Maybe you’re right,” he said and followed her towards the door.
Sometimes, though, in the middle of a narrative paragraph, your main character needs to speak.
Mary ducked away from flying fists. The fight at the pub was getting out of control. One man was grabbing bar stools and throwing them at others, and while she watched, another one who you could tell worked out regularly grabbed men by their shirt collars and tossed them out of the way. Almost hit by one flying person, she turned to John and said, “Let’s get the heck out of here right now.”
In my research, I couldn’t find any hard and fast rules that govern how to use dialogue in the middle of a narrative paragraph. It all depends on what style manual your publisher or editorial staff follow.
For example, in the Chicago Manual of Style , putting dialogue in the middle of paragraphs depends on the context. As in the above example, if the dialogue is a natural continuation of the sentences that come before, it can be included in your paragraph. The major caveat is if someone new speaks after that, you start a new paragraph and indent it.
On the other hand, if the dialogue you’re writing departs from the sentences that come before it, you should start a new paragraph and indent the dialogue.
The fight at the pub was getting out of control. One man was grabbing bar stools and throwing them at others, and another one who you could tell worked out regularly grabbed men by their shirt collars and tossed them out of the way.
Punctuation for dialogue stays consistent whether it’s included in your paragraph or set apart as a separate paragraph. We have a great article on how to punctuate your dialogue here: Where Does Punctuation Go in Dialogue?
It’s often a stylistic choice whether to include your dialogue as part of the paragraph. If you want your dialogue to be part of the scene described in preceding sentences, you can include it.
But if you want your dialogue to stand out from the action, start it in the next paragraph.
Dialogue is a fantastic way to bring your readers into the midst of the action. They can picture the main character talking to someone in their mind’s eye, and it gives them a glimpse into how your character interacts with others.
That said, dialogue is hard to punctuate, especially since there are different rules for different punctuation marks—because nothing in English grammar is ever easy, right?
We’re going to try to make this as easy as possible. So we’ll start with the hardest punctuation marks to understand.
For American English, periods and commas always go inside your quotation marks, and commas are used to separate your dialogue tag from the actual dialogue when it comes at the beginning of a sentence or in the middle. Here are a few examples:
Nancy said, “Let’s go to the park today since the weather is so beautiful.”
“Let’s go to the park today since the weather is so beautiful,” she said.
“Let’s go to the park today,” she said, “since the weather is so beautiful.”
British English puts the periods and commas inside the quotation marks if they’re actually part of the quoted words or sentence. Consider the following example:
- She sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, the theme song from The Wizard of Oz.
In the above example, the comma after “Rainbow” is not part of the quoted material and thus belongs outside the quotation marks.
But for most cases when you’re punctuating dialogue, the commas and periods belong inside the quotation marks.
Where these punctuation marks go depends on the meaning of your sentence. If your main character is asking someone a question or exclaiming about something, the punctuation marks belongs inside the quotation marks.
Nancy asked, “Does anyone want to go to the park today?”
Marija said, “That’s fantastic news!”
“Please say you’re still my friend!” Anna said.
“Can we just leave now?” asked Henry.
But if the question mark or exclamation point is for the sentence as a whole instead of just the words inside the quotation marks, they belong outside of the quotes.
Does your physical therapist always say to his patients, “You just need to try harder”?
Do you agree with the saying, “All’s fair in love and war”?
Single Quotation Marks
Only use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes, such as when a character is repeating something someone else has said. Single quotes are never used for any other purpose.
Avery said, “I saw a sign that read ‘Welcome to America’s Greatest City in the Midwest’ when I entered town this morning.”
“I heard Mona say to her mom, ‘You know nothing whatsoever about me,’ ” said Jennifer.
Some experts put a space after the single quote and before the main quotation mark like in the above example to make it easier for the reader to understand.
Here’s a trickier example of single quotation marks, question marks, and ending punctuation, just to mix things up a little.
- Mark said, “I heard her ask her lawyer, ‘Am I free to go?’ after the verdict was read this morning.”
Perfectly clear, right? Let us know some of your trickiest dialogue punctuation situations in the comments below.
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Writing A Narrative Essay
- Library Resources
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- OER Resources
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Examples of Dialogue Tags
Examples of Dialogue Tags:
Ebooks in Galileo
Additional Links & Resources
- Dialogue Cheat Sheet
Dialogue is an exchange of conversation between two or more people or characters in a story. As a literary style, dialogue helps to advance the plot, reveal a character's thoughts or emotions, or shows the character's reaction within the story. Dialogue gives life to the story and supports the story's atmosphere.
There are two types of dialogue that can be used in an narrative essay.
Direct dialogue is written between inverted commas or quotes. These are the actual spoken words of a character
Indirect dialogue is basically telling someone about what another person said
Dialogue is an important part of a narrative essay, However formatting dialogue can be troublesome at times.
When formatting dialogue use these rules and examples to help with your formatting:
Place double quotation marks at the beginning an end of spoken words. The quotations go on the outside of both the words and end-of-dialogue punctuation.
- Example: "What is going on here?" John asked.
Each speaker gets a new paragraph that is indented.
“hi,” said John as he stretched out his hand.
"Good Morning, how are you?" said Brad shaking John’s hand.
"Good. Thanks for asking," John said.
Each speaker’s actions are in the same paragraph as their dialogue.
A dialogue tag is anything that indicates which character spoke and describes how they spoke.
If the tag comes before the dialogue, use a comma straight after the tag. If the dialogue is the beginning of a sentence, capitalize the first letter. End the dialogue with the appropriate punctuation (period, exclamation point, or question mark), but keep it INSIDE the quotation marks.
- Examples Before:
James said, “I’ll never go shopping with you again!”
John said, “It's a great day to be at the beach.”
She opened the door and yelled, “Go away! Leave me alone!”
If the dialogue tag comes after the dialogue , Punctuation still goes INSIDE quotation marks. Unless the dialogue tag begins with a proper noun, it is not capitalized. End the dialogue tag with appropriate punctuation. Use comma after the quote unless it ends with a question mark or exclamation mark.
- Examples After:
“Are you sure this is real life?” Lindsay asked.
“It’s so gloomy out,” he said.
“Are we done?” asked Brad .
“This is not your concern!” Emma said.
If dialogue tag is in the middle of dialogue. A comma should be used before the dialogue tag inside the closing quotation mark; Unless the dialogue tag begins with a proper noun, it is not capitalized. A comma is used after the dialogue tag, outside of quotation marks, to reintroduce the dialogue. End the dialogue with the appropriate punctuation followed by the closing quotation marks.
When it is two sentences, the first sentence will end with a punctuation mark and the second begins with a capital letter.
- Examples middle:
“Let’s run away,” she whispered, “we wont get another chance.”
“I thought you cared.” Sandy said, hoping for an explanation. “How could you walk away?”
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Jerry whispered. “I’ll miss him.”
Questions in dialogue.
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
- Example: What are you doing?" he asked.
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.
“Sarah, why didn't you text me back?” Jane asked.
“James, why didn’t you show up?” Carol stomped her feet in anger before slamming the door behind her.
If the question or exclamation ends the dialogue, do not use commas to separate the dialogue from dialogue tags.
- Example: “Sarah, why didn't you text me back?” Jane asked.
If the sentence containing the dialogue is a question, then the question mark goes outside of the quotation marks.
Did the teacher say, “The Homework is due Tomorrow”?
If you have to quote something within the dialogue. When a character quotes someone else, use double-quotes around what your character says, then single-quotes around the speech they’re quoting.
"When doling out dessert, my grandmother always said, 'You may have a cookie for each hand.'"
Dashes & Ellipses:
Dashes ( — ) are used to indicate abruptly interrupted dialogue or when one character's dialogue is interrupted by another character.
Use an em dash inside the quotation marks to cut off the character mid-dialogue, usually with either (A) another character speaking or (B) an external action.
- Including the em dash at the end of the line of dialogue signifies that your character wasn't finished speaking.
- If the speaking character's action interrupts their own dialogue .
- Use em dashes outside the quotation marks to set off a bit of action without a speech verb.
- Heather ran towards Sarah with excitement. “You won’t believe what I found out—”
- "Is everything—" she started to ask, but a sharp look cut her off.
- "Look over there—" She snapped her mouth shut so she didn't give the secret away.
- "Look over there"—she pointed towards the shadow—"by the stairway."
Use ellipses (...) when a character has lost their train of thought or can't figure out what to say
- Example: “You haven’t…” he trailed off in disbelief.
Action beats show what a character is doing before, during, or after their dialogue.
“This isn't right.” She squinted down at her burger. “Does this look like it is well done to you?”
She smiled. “I loved the center piece you chose.”
If you separate two complete sentences, you will simply place the action beat as its own sentence between two sets of quotes.
“I never said he could go to the concert.” Linda sighed and sat in her chair. “He lied to you again.”
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- Last Updated: Jun 29, 2023 8:45 AM
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Guide to Writing a Dialogue in an Essay
Composing a dialogue is one of the most intricate parts of essay writing. Many students instantly realize that crafting a good dialogue within the context of a story takes a lot of time and requires more work that simply describing the events. And that’s not surprising as a dialogue should not simply present the direct quotations from different characters but bring the story to life.
If you are unsure about how to use dialogue in your essay, read on. Let’s figure out the main rules and standards together!
Moving the Story Forward
The main role of a dialogue is to help the story move forward by presenting conversations and thoughts. You can use a dialogue to speed up the pace of your essay if you feel that the narration slows it down or you can use it as a break between the long and overwhelming paragraphs. When writing conversations, you need to remember a few important things:
- Dialogues move the action, set the scene, explain the descriptions and predict the reactions and activities. They can do all these things at once, so don’t use the conversations to just convey the information.
- Remind yourself of the character’s voice to write a dialogue that sounds like a real speech . You may even use some grammatical mistakes to show the realistic conversation but make sure that you keep the balance between the actual talk and readability.
- Always use the speech as a characterization tool. From your words, a reader should understand a lot about the character: morality, background, appearance, etc.
To advance the story, your dialogues should sound natural, not forced, and clear. At the same time, the conversations have to convey the characters’ emotions and show the reader how they interact with each other.
Using Thoughts in Dialogue
Using thoughts and memories in the conversation can also show the important details of your story. This indirect dialogue is another way to change ideas without the quotations. You may also use a combination of direct and indirect dialogue for emphasis. It looks like this:
Billy and I moved on to the next painting. “That’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.” He curled his lip in disgust. Well, I thought he was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen, and told him so. “And also, you stink. But most of all, your taste in art stinks.”
To reveal emotions and thoughts, you need to use the sensory details: tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing. Try to show what is going on, don’t tell. Thus, your essay will be more realistic and engaging for your reader.
Formatting Your Dialogue
The right format and style are key to the successful dialogue. Correct punctuation, tags and paragraphs are even more significant than the quotations themselves. Without following the main rules, it would be hopelessly confusing to understand who is speaking. Therefore, make sure that you format your dialogue accordingly.
Rule 1: Punctuation goes inside quotations.
“I’ll call you tomorrow!” Anna screamed.
Make sure to use two quotation marks for speech and one mark for speech within the speech. Even such a small thing as using the quotation marks can poorly reflect on your essay .
Rule 2: A new speaker – a new line.
If you have several characters in your essay, it’s important to know who is speaking. With the line break, your reader won’t be confused.
“I wish I could fly,” John said longingly. “Why don’t you grow wings, then?” Sarah snapped back.
If there is the action connected with a character, describe it in the same paragraph, then start a new line.
Rule 3: Break up dialogue in two parts.
It’s annoying to wait until the end of a speech to put a dialogue tag because it is unclear for a long time who is speaking. That’s why is it better to write the first thought, place a comma and tag, and then continue the dialogue.
“I can’t believe I failed the exam,” said Ben. “I studied and studied, but somehow I choked and left most of it blank.”
As you see, all dialogues follow a simple guideline. Keep the main rules in mind and start writing a dialogue to convey your message!
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