How to Write Dialogue

How to Write Dialogue


What is Dialogue?

        Dialogue is what we call words spoken by characters in a narrative. It is found between quotation marks. These things  “ ”




Grammar Rules!

Dialogue is treated like any normal sentence, and misplaced commas and periods can break the grammar.


I said. Is not a full sentence. Neither is He said. Or She said.

These are what we call Tags because they get tagged on to dialogue to tell us who is speaking.


Tags should be separated from the dialogue by 2 things.

1.)   “quotation marks”

2.)   commas. These things  ,


Why Quotation Marks?

        To easily mark who is speaking.


Why Commas?

        Because tags are not full sentences. If you use a period inside the dialogue, you are separating the tag into a different sentence and making a fragment! Oh no!


Note: Not all dialogue has a tag. In this case, it is just a sentence with quotation marks.





Follow these simple formulas to make dialogue. Pay close attention to what is capitalized and what is not.


1.) Standard Dialogue and Tag

+ Dialogue + , ++ tag + .

“Dialogue,” tag.



Everything’s ok now,” I said over and over again. (p. 72)





2.) Reverse order Tag and Dialogue

Tag + , ++ Dialogue + . +

Tag, “Dialogue.”



I stared quietly, then asked, “what’s the funny thing?” (p.82)





3.) Dialogue Split by Tag

+ Dialogue + , ++ tag + , +dialogue continued + . +

“Dialogue,” tag, “dialogue continued.”



She makes a lot of money,” he said, “and she should buy her own darn comic book.” (p. 80)



Why spend the afternoon making a meal that will be gone in an hour,” she asked us, “when in the same amount of time, I can do a painting that will last forever?” (p.56)





4.) Combining Multiple Lines of Dialogue.

+ Dialogue + , + ” + tag + . + “ + Different dialogue + . + ”

“Dialogue,” tag. “Different dialogue.”


Note: The second different dialogue does not have its own tag. The tag from the first tag is enough to tell us who is speaking.


It’s real, all right!” I shouted. “It’s my dad’s gun.” (p.88)



Writing Good Tags



The best tag is the simplest: He said. She said. It said.


Say This

Not This

“Let’s go,” I said.

“Let’s go,” I declared.




Using adverbs to say how someone is saying something.


Say This

Not This

“Give me back my notebook,” I said.

“Give me back my notebook,” I said firmly.




Use a verb that doesn’t, in some way, imply speaking


Say This

Not This

I cringed and asked, “What is that?”

I cringed, “What is that?”




Say who is talking if there are more than two people.


Say This

Not This

“How are you?” I asked.

“Very good,” she said.

“I’m good, too,” he said.

“How are you?”

“Very good.”

“I’m good, too.”



When to use Dialogue

Use dialogue to break up large amounts of descriptive text.


Use dialogue to show us how a character thinks or feels.


When not to use Dialogue

Don’t use dialogue to give large amounts of information to the reader about what is happening in the story.


Don’t tell the whole story through dialogue exchanges.


Don’t tell us what someone is saying unless it’s important. 

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