8 simple rules for writing dialogue
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8 Simple Rules for Writing Dialogue . Rule 1. Use commas or periods between the dialogue and tag line (the words used to identify the speaker: "he said/she said ") depending on where they are in the sentence. Example: “ I’m going to work out at the gym,” she told Brian.

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8 Simple Rules for Writing Dialogue

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8 simple rules for writing dialogue

8 Simple Rules for Writing Dialogue


Rule 1

Rule 1

  • Use commas or periods between the dialogue and tag line (the words used to identify the speaker: "he said/she said") depending on where they are in the sentence.

  • Example:

    • “I’m going to work out at the gym,” she told Brian.

    • She told Brian, “I’m going to work out at the gym.”

    • “I’m going to work out at the gym,” she told Brian, “and you’re welcome to come along.”


Rule 2

Rule 2

  • Punctuation goes inside the quotation marks unless it directly pertains to the material within the quotes.

  • Example:

    • Did he say, "We should all go to the movies"?

    • “Should we all go to the movies?” she asked.


Rule 3

Rule 3

  • To signal a quotation within a quotation, use single quotes.

  • Example:

    • "Have you read 'Hills Like White Elephants' yet?" he asked her.

  • Single quotations can also be used in dialogue to indicate sarcasm.


  • Rule 4

    Rule 4

    • Paragraphs are very important to the flow and comprehension of the dialogue. Remember to start a new paragraph each time the speaker changes within the dialogue (even if the character is only committing an action). This helps the reader know when someone new is speaking (and who it is).


    Rule 5

    Rule 5

    • Ellipses are an important tool when writing dialogue. They can indicate omitted speech, a nervous pause, or hesitation.

    • Examples:

      • "Hello, I’ve been on hold for 20 minutes! . . . Why should I continue to hold? . . . Yes, I know that you are busy! . . ." After the end punctuation mark, add a space and then the ellipses.

      • "I just can’t eat . . . my stomach hurts,“ Alice insisted.


    Rule 6

    Rule 6

    • If a quotation spills out over more than one paragraph, don't use end quotes at the close of the first paragraph. Use them only when a character is done speaking.


    Rule 7

    Rule 7

    • Do NOT use quotation marks when writing a character’s thoughts. Direct thoughts or things that the character “says” in their heads should be written in italics.

    • Example:

      • "Hi Tony.“

      • Tony looked down at his shoe, dug in his toe, and pushed around a pile of dust. "Hey," he replied.

      • Katy braced herself. Something was wrong.


    Rule 8

    Rule 8

    • Italics can be used within dialogue to create emphasis.

    • When indicating what a sign, billboard, letter, or flyer says, use Italics.

    • EXCEPTION: If a character is “reading aloud” what a sign, billboard, letter, or flyers says, use quotation marks.


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