A Guide to Writing Dialogue, With Examples

Lindsay Kramer

“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. 

Dialogue examples

Inner dialogue.

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. 

Outer dialogue

“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.

Dialogue FAQs

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

how to structure dialogue in an essay

How to Format Dialogue: Complete Guide

Dialogue formatting matters. Whether you’re working on an essay, novel, or any other form of creative writing. Perfectly formatted dialogue makes your work more readable and engaging for the audience.

In this article, you’ll learn the dialogue formatting rules. Also, we’ll share examples of dialogue in essays for you to see the details.

What is a Dialogue Format?

Dialogue format is a writing form authors use to present characters' communication. It's common for play scripts, literature works, and other forms of storytelling.

A good format helps the audience understand who is speaking and what they say. It makes the communication clear and enjoyable. In dialogue writing, we follow the basic grammar rules like punctuation and capitalization. They help us illustrate the speaker’s ideas.

how to structure dialogue in an essay

General Rules to Follow When Formatting a Dialogue

Dialogue writing is an essential skill for both professionals and scholars . It shows your ability to express the issues and ideas of other people in different setups. The core rules of formatting are about punctuation. So, below is a quick reminder on punctuation marks’ names:

how to structure dialogue in an essay

And now, to practice.

Please follow these rules for proper dialogue formatting:

  •  Use quotation marks. Enclose the speaker’s words in double quotations. It helps readers distinguish between a character’s speech and a narrator’s comments.
  •  Place punctuation inside quotation marks. All punctuation like commas, exclamations, or interrogation marks, go inside the double quotations.
  •  Keep dialogue tags behind quotation marks. A dialogue tag is (1) words framing direct speech to convey the context and emotions of a conversation. For example, in (“I can’t believe this is you,” she replied.), the dialogue tag is “she replied.”
  •  Use an ellipsis or em-dashes for pauses or interruptions. To show interruptions or pauses, end phrases with ellipses inside quotations. Em-dashes go outside quotations. No other extra marks are necessary here.
  •  Remember a character’s voice.  Ensure that each character’s phrases reflect their background and personality.

5 More Rules to Know (+ Examples of Dialogue)

For proper formatting of dialogue in writing, stick to the following rules:

1. Each speaker’s saying comes in a new paragraph

Begin a new paragraph whenever a new character starts speaking. It allows you to differentiate speakers and make their conversation look more organized. (2)

“Has Mr. de Winter been in?” I said.    “Yes, Madam,” said Robert; “he came in just after two, and had a quick lunch, and then went out again. He asked for you and Frith said he thought you must have gone down to see the ship.”    “Did he say when he would be back again?” I asked.    “No, Madam.” — from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

2. Separate dialogue tags with commas

When using dialogue tags ( e.g., “she said,” “he replied,”), separate them with commas. 

For example:

“You’ve got to do something right now , ” Aaron said , “Mom is really hurting. She says you have to drive her to the hospital.” “Actually, Dad , ” said Caleb, sidling in with his catalog , “There’s someplace you can drive me, too.” “No, Caleb.” — from The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

3. When quoting within dialogue, place single quotes

If a character cites somebody or something while speaking, we call it a reported dialogue. In this case, use single quotations within double ones you place for a direct speech. It will help readers see that it’s a quote.

John started to cry. “When you said, ‘I never wanted to meet you again in my life!’ It hurts my feelings.”

4. You can divide a character’s long speech into paragraphs

Dialogue writing is different when a person speaks for a longer time. It’s fine to divide it into shorter paragraphs. Ensure the proper quotation marks placing:

 The first quotation mark goes at the beginning of the dialogue. Each later paragraph also starts with it until that direct speech ends.

 The second quotation mark — the one “closing” the monologue — goes at the dialogue’s end.

Josphat took a deep breath and began. “ Here’s the things about lions. They’re dangerous creatures. They only know how to kill. Have you ever seen a lion in an open area? Probably not. Because if you had you’d be dead now. “ I saw a lion once. I was fetching firewood to cook lunch. All of a sudden I found myself face to face with a lion. My heart stopped. I knew it was my end on earth. If it wasn’t the poachers we wouldn’t be having this talk. ”

Yet, you can keep a long text as a whole by adding some context with dialogue tags. Like here:

how to structure dialogue in an essay

As you can see, there’s no quotation mark at the end of the paragraph in red. It’s because the next “Ha! ha!” paragraph continues the character’s speech.

5. Use action beats

Describe actions to provide context and keep readers engaged. Help them “hear” your characters. Punctuation also helps here: exclamation (!) or interrogation with exclamations (?!) demonstrate the corresponding tone of your narrative.

He slammed the door and shouted , “I can’t believe you did that ! “

Mistakes to Avoid When Formatting Dialogue

A good dialogue is a powerful instrument for a writer to show the character’s nature to the audience. Below are the mistakes to avoid in formatting if you want to reach that goal.

 So, please don’t :

  • Allow characters to speak for too long. Writing long paragraphs will bore the reader, making them skip through your speech. Short but sweet talk is the best. When writing, aim to be brief, dynamic, and purposeful. If your character speaks too much, generating opinion essays , ensure this speech makes sense and serves a bigger purpose.
  • Overburden dialogue with exposition.  Avoid telling the story background or building sophisticated words in your characters’ speeches. Instead, reveal the narrative content in small bursts and blend it around the rest of the prose. Convey it through your character’s actions and thoughts rather than summaries and explanations.
  • Create rhetorical flourishes. Make your characters sound natural. Let them speak the way they’d do if they were real people. Consider their age, profession, and cultural background — and choose lexical items that fit them most.
  • Use repetitive dialogue tags. Constant “he asked” and “she said” sounds monotonous. Diversify your tags: use power verbs, synonyms, and dialogue beats.

Frequently Asked Questions by Students

How to format dialogue in an essay.

Formatting a dialogue in an essay is tricky for most students. Here’s how to do it: Enclose the speaker’s words with double quotations and start every other character’s line from a new paragraph. Stick to the citation styles like APA or MLA to ensure credibility. 

How to format dialogue in a novel?

 A dialogue in a novel follows all the standard rules for clarity and readability. Ensure to use attributions, quotation marks, and paragraph format. It makes your dialogue flow, grabbing the reader’s attention.

How to format dialogue in a book?

Dialogue formatting in a book is critical for storytelling. It helps the audience distinguish the hero’s words. Follow the general rules we’ve discussed above:

Use double quotations and isolate dialogue tags with commas. Remember to place the discussion in blocks for better readability.

How to format dialogue between two characters?

A two-character dialogue offers the best way to prove successful formatting skills. Ensure you use action beats, quotations, and attribution tags. It allows readers to follow the conversation and understand it better.

What is the purpose of dialogue in a narrative essay?  

Dialogue writing is the exchange of views between two or more people to reach a consensus. It reveals the character’s attitude and argumentation. Last but not least, it helps convey the descriptive nature of your narrative essay.


  • https://valenciacollege.edu/students/learning-support/winter-park/communications/documents/WritingDialogueCSSCTipSheet_Revised_.pdf
  • https://www.ursinus.edu/live/files/1158-formatting-dialogue
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How To Format Dialogue (includes examples)

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How to Write Dialogue in an Essay: Perfect Writing Guide

Writing essays is a part of every student’s life. The tool that can be useful for all composition genres with no limitations is dialogue. Typically, article writing at school and college is related to informative or argumentative intentions.

Dialogues can be included in reflective or narrative texts and creative assignments, such as screenplays. Likewise, if your paper is more on the argumentative side, you may include a dialogue when transcribing an extract from an interview to reinforce your thesis.

To get the highest mark for your paper, it is crucial to know how to write a dialogue in an essay. Keep reading this article to find out how to add it to your paper, whether for academic, informative, or creative purposes.

Usage of Dialogues in Essays

Over our educational years at school and university, we are taught to compose argumentative, narrative, informative, creative, and expository essays. Writing becomes a skill we need to develop to be successful when composing a report.

Quote, text line, or dialogue represents two or more characters talking, and can turn a dull paper into an easy-going and fun learning experience.

And just like when watching a movie, dialogues will have us more engaged in discovering the ending of the tale. Moreover, you will have a strong thesis for persuasive essay texts by including dialogues in them. How is this accomplished?

Dialogue serves more than just fiction, as we stated earlier. They transform information into a fluid and rhythmic piece of writing, providing data on an actual scenario portrayed as a conversation. This results in a direct and captivating piece that will teach and entertain the reader. That sounds like a win-win situation, right?

How to Format Dialogue in an Essay?

Here you will encounter some of the essential rules in terms of punctuation and formatting that should be followed when writing effective dialogue in your article so that it is read naturally. If you are unsure of your profile essay writing skills, keep reading this page to get accurate and precise information for composing your best paper.

  • How to add dialogue in an essay: you can either use double quotation marks to indicate what someone said, or start in a new line using a Dash followed by the actually spoken phrase every time a new character speaks. This demonstrates that dialogue conversations have started.

“Elisa gave me this purse for my birthday.”

—Elisa gave me this purse for my birthday.

—It looks good on you.

—Thank you, I like it a lot.

  • If you are quoting already, use single quotation marks to add another quotation within. This is useful when you depict someone describing a certain circumstance that happened to them.

“He was eating lunch next to me when Tom came by and yelled, ‘let’s go outside,’ so we went.”

  • Make sure to use closing quotation marks when the character finishes talking. If dashes are used instead, end that person’s speech with a complete stop, showing that a dialogue has ended.

“I took my cat to the Vet last night to get a shot. He is alright now.”

  • When a character is quoted, exclamation and question marks should be placed inside the quotation marks. If the exclamation or quotation marks refer to the greater sentence, not the quotation itself, place them outside the quotation marks.

My niece screamed, “let’s play hide and seek!”. What was your reaction when your niece screamed, “let’s play hide and seek”?.

  • Do not add a period if the character pauses in the speech; in this case, write the speech, then use a comma to include a remark and add another comma before the last part of said speech.

“I couldn’t finish the presentation tonight,” he said with a tired voice, “I will tomorrow.”

  • If a quote is too long, for example, longer than a paragraph in the essay, you can break it into two sections to make it easier to read. Such a situation is frequent when you write a narrative text. This type of assignment is often given to college and high school students. And it’s one of the most difficult tasks. If you need more confidence in your composition writing skills but still want to get a great mark and impress your teacher, we recommend you to buy narrative essays from professional writers. They will definitely know how to deal with complicated quotes. Here you can see an example of how a big direct quote was shortened to create a new paragraph for the text:

“Christmastime at work is very intense, and we work long shifts. Last year, we launched fifteen new products so that they were sold out during Christmastime. Luckily, it was a success. Our most popular items were: a Christmas cookie-scented candle, a new edition of the traditional elf-pet costume, and a unique knife that cuts the turkey easily and evenly.

I tried the candle immediately and loved the scent; my sister dressed her dog and three cats as elves, poor things, but she looked amused, and my mom tried the turkey knife; she genuinely said it was the best she could use to cut the turkey.”

How to Write Dialogue in an Essay?

how to write dialogue in an essay

Knowing how to put dialogue in your essay will allow you to bring out your creative side while mastering the skill of showing rather than telling. If you want to know particular features of  writing a good process essay , read to master how to write a dialogue and search for relevant sentences. Also, you’ll need to craft coherent paragraphs, use speech tags and be aware of the format and punctuation rules when writing dialogue in your paper.

Common Dialogue Mistakes to Avoid

Mistakes are easy to make when we need to learn the rules of correct essay writing, so pay attention to the most common mistakes to avoid delivering an enjoyable and compelling text.

One of the most frequent mistakes students make when they need to learn how to put dialogue in an essay is confusing dialogue with citations. The latter is adequate when directly referencing, word-by-word, other authors to support statements previously made regarding a particular topic. At the same time, dialogues are supposed to deliver information by being creative and motivating the reader to relate to a life situation described in the dialogue.

Citation: also known as direct quotes, is information written by an author and referenced to support a claim.

Dialogue: a speech between two or more characters, often portrayed to captivate the reader, and what is used is only a part of a greater conversation.

Other mistakes to avoid in your text:

  • Providing too many details and unnecessary talk can be counterproductive. Keep it simple.
  • Repeating information from one word to another. Describe it in your own words or show it through dialogue formatting. This will make the topic more interesting as the teacher will use their imagination. If you need help with how to do it properly, we recommend asking for help from a specialized platform, such as Edusson.com . Here you will find professional writers who will write your article quickly, plagiarism-free papers with high quality, and at a reasonable price.
  • Using more dialogue tags than required can distort the readability of the conversation.
  • Mentioning the characters’ names often, which only happens in real talk, decreases credibility.
  • Incorrect use of opening quotation marks.

Some types of articles would benefit from dialogues to bring more dynamics into them. Check to avoid the mistakes we presented to you, compose creatively, and most importantly, just as dialogue tells a story. It describes a scenery that will make the reader learn through real-life association, so use dialogue when you think it will add value to the text.

Example of Dialogue in an Essay

Here we will give you examples of how to add dialogue to an essay:

Do thorough research on the topic by looking up reliable sources Use an online plagiarism checker to ensure that your paper is unique Explain the purpose of your study, providing supporting arguments, examples, and close by validating the thesis mentioned at the beginning. If the topic you are writing about is rather technical, define the meaning of its relevant vocabulary Teach the reader, do not assume they know everything. Otherwise, they wouldn’t come to read Verify that your composition is cohesive and informative Finally, read both your text and dialogue out loud to check they are coherent and eloquent.

Knowing these dialogue rules, you are ready to write with confidence! Whether you are writing for college, creating a dialogue for fun, or just eager to learn about this topic, you already know the essentials of how to write a dialogue in your essay with the correct format and punctuation rules. Additionally, if you are ever in need of professional help for your writing, you can always opt to pay to write an essay to ensure that you are submitting a well-written, high-quality paper.

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How to Write Dialogue in a Narrative Paragraph


Hayley Milliman

How to Work With Multiple Points of View

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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How to Write Dialogue: Rules, Examples, and 8 Tips for Engaging Dialogue

how to structure dialogue in an essay

by Fija Callaghan

You’ll often hear fiction writers talking about “character-driven stories”—stories where the strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations of the central cast of characters stay with us long after the book is closed. But what drives character, and how do we create characters that leave long-lasting impressions?

The answer lies in dialogue : the device used by our characters to communicate with each other. Powerful dialogue can elevate a story and subtly reveal important information, but poorly written dialogue can send your work straight to the slush bin. Let’s look at what dialogue is in writing, how to properly format dialogue, and how to make your characters’ dialogue the best it can be.

What is dialogue in a story?

Dialogue is the verbal exchange between two or more characters. In most fiction, the exchange is in the form of a spoken conversation. However, conversations in a story can also be things like letters, text messages, telepathy, or even sign language. Any moment where two characters speak or connect with each other through their choice of words, they’re engaging in dialogue.

Dialogue is the verbal exchange between two or more characters.

Why does dialogue matter in a story?

We use dialogue in a story to reveal new information about the plot, characters, and story world. Great dialogue is essential to character development and helps move the plot forward in a story.

Writing good dialogue is a great way to sneak exposition into your story without stating it overtly to the reader; you can also use tools like dialect and diction in your dialogue to communicate more detail about your characters.

Dialogue helps to create characters that leave long-lasting impressions.

Through a character’s dialogue, we can learn about their motivations, relationships, and understanding of the world around them.

A character won’t always say what they mean (more on dialogue subtext below), but everything they say will serve some larger purpose in the story. If your dialogue is well-written, the reader will absorb this information without even realizing it. If your dialogue is clunky, however, it will stand out and pull your reader away from your story.

Three reasons why dialogue matters in a story.

Rules for writing dialogue

Before we get into how to make your dialogue realistic and engaging, let’s make sure you’ve got the basics down: how to properly format dialogue in a story. We’ll look at how to punctuate dialogue, how to write dialogue correctly when using a question mark or exclamation point, and some helpful dialogue writing examples.

Here are the need-to-know rules for formatting dialogue in writing.

Enclose lines of dialogue in double quotation marks

This is the most essential rule in basic dialogue punctuation. When you write dialogue in North American English, a spoken line will have a set of double quotation marks around it. Here’s a simple dialogue example:

“Were you at the party last night?”

Any punctuation such as periods, question marks, and exclamation marks will also go inside the quotation marks. The quotation marks give a visual clue to the reader that this line is spoken out loud.

Quotation marks give a visual clue to the reader.

In European or British English, however, you’ll often see single quotation marks being used instead of double quotation marks. All the other rules stay the same.

Enclose nested dialogue in single quotation marks

Nested dialogue is when one line of dialogue happens inside another line of dialogue—when someone is verbally quoting someone else. In North American English, you’d use single quotation marks to identify where the new dialogue line starts and stops, like this:

“And then, do you know what he said to me? Right to my face, he said, ‘I stayed home all night.’ As if I didn’t even see him.”

The double and single quotation marks give the reader clues as to who’s speaking. In European or British English, the quotation marks would be reversed; you’d use single quotation marks on the outside, and double quotation marks on the inside.

Every speaker gets a new paragraph

Every time you switch to a new speaker, you end the line where it is and start a new line. Here are some dialogue examples to show you how it looks:

“Were you at the party last night?” “No, I stayed home all night.”

The same is true if the new “speaker” is only in focus because of their action. You can think of the paragraphs like camera angles, each one focusing on a different person:

“Were you at the party last night?” “No, I stayed home all night.” She raised a single, threatening eyebrow. “Yeah, I wasn’t feeling that well, so I just stayed in and watched Netflix instead.”

If you kept the action on the same line as the dialogue, it would get confusing and make it look like she was the one saying it. Giving each character a new paragraph keeps the speakers clear and distinct.

Use em-dashes when dialogue gets cut short

If your character begins to speak but is interrupted, you’ll break off their line of dialogue with an em-dash, like this:

“Yeah, I wasn’t feeling that well, so I just stayed in and—” “Is that really what happened?”

Be careful with this one, because many word processors will treat your em-dash like the beginning of a new sentence and attach your closing quotation marks backwards:

“Yeah, I wasn’t feeling that well, so I just stayed in and—“

You may need to keep an eye out and adjust as you go along.

In this dialogue example, the new speaker doesn’t lead with an em-dash; they just start speaking like normal. The only time you’ll ever open a line of dialogue with an em-dash is if the speaker who’s been cut off continues with what they were saying:

“Yeah, I wasn’t feeling that well, so I just stayed in and—” “Is that really what happened?” “—watched Netflix instead. Yes, that’s what happened.”

This shows the reader that there’s actually only one line of dialogue, but it’s been cut in the middle by another speaker.

Each line of dialogue is indented

Every time you give your speaker a new paragraph, it’s indented from the left-hand side. Many word processors will do this automatically. The only exception is if your dialogue is opening your story or a new section of your story, such as a chapter; these will always start at the far left margin of the page, whether they’re dialogue or narration.

Each time you change speakers, begin dialogue on a new line.

Long speeches don’t use use closing quotation marks until the end

Most writers favor shorter lines of dialogue in their writing, but sometimes you might need to give your character a longer one—for instance, if the character speaking is giving a speech or telling a story. In these cases, you might choose to break up their speech into shorter paragraphs the way you would if you were writing regular narrative.

However, here the punctuation gets a bit weird. You’ll begin the character’s dialogue with a double quotation mark, like normal. But you won’t use a double quotation mark at the end of the paragraph, because they haven’t finished speaking yet. But! You’ll use another opening quotation mark at the beginning of the subsequent paragraph. This means that you may use several opening double quotation marks for your character’s speech, but only ever one closing quotation mark.

If your character is telling a story that involves people talking, remember to use single quotation marks for your dialogue-within-dialogue as we looked at above.

Sometimes these dialogue formatting rules are easier to catch later on, during the editing process. When you’re writing, worry less about using the exact dialogue punctuation and more about writing great dialogue that supports your character development and moves the story forward.

How to use dialogue tags

Dialogue tags help identify the speaker. They’re especially important if you have a group of people all talking together, and it can get pretty confusing for the reader trying to keep everybody straight. If you’re using a speech tag after your line of dialogue—he said, she said, and so forth—you’ll end your sentence with a comma, like this:

“No, I stayed home all night,” he said.

But if you’re using an action to identify the person speaking instead, you’ll punctuate the sentence like normal and start a new sentence to describe the action taking place:

“No, I stayed home all night.” He looked down at his feet.

The dialogue tags and action tags always follow in the same paragraph. When you move your story lens to a new person, you’ll switch to a new paragraph. Each line where a new person speaks propels the story forward.

When to use capitals in dialogue tags

You may have noticed in the two examples above that one dialogue tag begins with a lowercase letter, and one—which is technically called an action tag—begins with a capital letter. Confusing? The rules are simple once you get a little practice.

When you use a dialogue tag like “he said,” “she said,” “he whispered,” or “she shouted,” you’re using these as modifiers to your sentence—dressing it up with a little clarity. They’re an extension of the sentence the person was speaking. That’s why you separate them with a comma and keep going.

With an action tag , you’re ending one sentence and beginning a whole new one. Each sentence represents two distinct moments in the story. That’s why you end the first sentence with a period, and then open the next one with a capital letter.

If you’re not sure, try reading them out loud:

“No, I stayed home all night,” he said. “No, I stayed home all night.” He looked down at his feet.

Dialogue tags vs. action tags.

Since you can’t hear quotation marks out loud, the way you say them will show you if they’re one sentence or two. In the first example, you can hear how the sentence keeps going after the dialogue ends. In the second example, you can hear how one sentence comes to a full stop and another one begins.

But what if your dialogue tag comes before the dialogue, instead of after? In this case, the dialogue is always capitalized because the speaker is beginning a new sentence:

He said, “No, I stayed home all night.” He looked down at his feet. “No, I stayed home all night.”

You’ll still use a comma after the dialogue tag and a period after the action tag, just like if you’d separate them if you were putting your tag at the end.

If you’re not sure, ask yourself if your leading tag sounds like a full sentence or a partial sentence. If it sounds like a partial sentence, it gets a comma. If it reads like a full sentence that stands on its own, it gets a period.

External vs. internal dialogue

All of the dialogue we’ve looked at so far is external dialogue, which is directed from one character to another. The other type of dialogue is internal dialogue, or inner dialogue, where a character is talking to themselves. You’ll use this when you want to show what a character is thinking, but other characters can’t hear.

Usually, internal dialogue will be written in italics to distinguish it from the rest of the text. That shows the reader that the line is happening inside the character’s head. For example:

It’s not a big deal, she thought. It’s just a new school. It’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.

Here you can see that the dialogue tag is used in the same way, just as if it was a line of external dialogue. However, “she thought” is written in regular text because it’s not a part of what the character is thinking. This helps keep everything clear for the reader.

External dialogue vs. internal dialogue.

In your story, you can play with using contrasting internal and external dialogue to show that what your characters say isn’t always what they mean. You may also choose to use this internal dialogue formatting if you’re writing dialogue between two or more characters that isn’t spoken out loud—for instance, telepathically or by sign language.

8 tips for creating engaging dialogue in a story

Now that you’ve mastered the mechanics of how to write dialogue, let’s look at how to create convincing, compelling dialogue that will elevate your story.

1. Listen to people talk

To write convincingly about people, you’ll first need to know something about them. The work of great writers is often characterized by their insight into humanity; you read them and think, “Yes, this is exactly what people are like.” You can begin accumulating your own insight by listening to what real people say to each other.

You can go to any public place where people are likely to gather and converse: cafés, art galleries, political events, dimly lit pubs, bookshops. Record snippets of conversation, pay attention to how people’s voices change as they move from speaking to one person to another, try to imagine what it is they’re not saying, the words simmering just under the surface.

By listening to stories unfold in real time, you’ll have a better idea of how to recreate them in your writing—and inspiration for some new stories, too.

2. Give each spoken line a purpose

Here is something that actors have drilled into their heads from their first day at drama school, and writers would do well to remember it too: every single line of dialogue has a hidden motivation. Every time your character speaks, they’re trying to achieve something, either overtly or covertly.

Small talk is rare in fiction, because it doesn’t advance the plot or reveal something about your characters. The exception is when your characters are using their small talk for a specific purpose, such as to put off talking about the real issue, to disarm someone, or to pretend they belong somewhere they don’t.

When writing your own dialogue, ask yourself what the line accomplishes in the story. If you come up blank, it probably doesn’t need to be there. Words need to earn their place on the page.

Eight tips for creating engaging dialogue.

3. Embrace subtext

In real life, we rarely say exactly what we really mean. The reality of polite society is that we’ve evolved to speak in circles around our true intentions, afraid of the consequences of speaking our mind. Your characters will be no different. If your protagonist is trying to tell their best friend they’re in love with them, for instance, they’ll come up with about fifty different ways to say it before speaking the deceptively simple words themselves.

To write better dialogue, try exploring different ways of moving your characters around what’s really being said, layering text and subtext side by side. The reader will love picking apart the conversation between your characters and deducing what’s really happening underneath (incidentally, this is also the place where fan fiction is born).

4. Keep names to a minimum

You may notice that on television, in moments of great upheaval, the characters will communicate exactly how important the moment is by saying each other’s names in dramatic bursts of anger/passion/fear/heartbreak/shock. In real life, we say each other’s names very rarely; saying someone’s name out loud can actually be a surprisingly intimate experience.

Names may be a necessary evil right at the beginning of your story so your reader knows who’s who, but after you’ve established your cast, try to include names in dialogue only when it makes sense to do so. If you’re not sure, try reading the dialogue out loud to see if it sounds like something someone would actually say (we’ll talk more about reading out loud below).

5. Prune unnecessary words

This is one area where reality and story differ. In life, dialogue is full of filler words: “Um, uh, well, so yeah, then I was like, erm, huh?” You may have noticed this when you practiced listening to dialogue, above. We won’t say there’s never a place for these words in fiction, but like all words in storytelling, they need to earn their place. You might find filler words an effective tool for showing something about one particular character, or about one particular moment, but you’ll generally find that you use them a lot less than people really do in everyday speech.

When you’re reviewing your characters’ dialogue, remember the hint above: each line needs a purpose. It’s the same for each word. Keep only the ones that contribute something to the story.

6. Vary word choices and rhythms

The greatest dialogue examples in writing use distinctive character voices; each character sounds a little bit different, because they have their own personality.

This can be tricky to master, but an easy way to get started is to look at the word choice and rhythm for each character. You might have one character use longer words and run-on sentences, while another uses smaller words and simple, single-clause sentences. You might have one lean on colloquial regional dialect, where another sounds more cosmopolitan. Play around with different ways to develop characters and give each one their own voice.

Effective dialogue is the key to a good story.

7. Be consistent for each character

When you do find a solid, believable voice for your character, make sure that it stays consistent throughout your entire story. It’s easy to set a story aside for a while, then return to it and forget some of the work you did in distinguishing your characters’ dialogue. You might find it helpful to write down some notes about the way each character speaks so you can refer back to it later.

The exception, of course, is if your character’s speech pattern goes through a transformation over the course of the story, like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady . In this case, you can use your character’s distinctive voice to communicate a major change. But as with all things in writing, make sure that it comes from intention and not from forgetfulness.

8. Read your dialogue out loud

After you’ve written a scene between two or more characters, you can take the dialogue for a trial run by speaking it out loud. Ask yourself, does the dialogue sound realistic? Are there any moments where it drags or feels forced? Does the voice feel natural for each character? You’ll often find there are snags you miss in your writing that only become apparent when read out loud. Bonus: this is great practice for when you become rich and famous and do live readings at bookshops.

3 mistakes to avoid when writing dialogue

Easy, right? But there are also a few pitfalls that new writers often encounter when writing dialogue that can drag down an otherwise compelling story. Here are the things to watch out for when crafting your story dialogue.

1. Too much exposition

Exposition is one of the more demanding literary devices , and one of the ones most likely to trip up new writers. Dialogue is a good place to sneak in some information about your story—but subtlety is essential. This is one place where the adage “show, don’t tell” really shines.

Consider these dialogue examples:

“How is she, Doctor?” “Well Mr. Stuffington, I don’t have to remind you that your daughter, the sole heiress to your estate and currently engaged to the Baron of Flippingshire, has suffered a grievous injury when she fell from her horse last Sunday. We don’t need to discuss right now whether or not you think her jealous maid was responsible; what matters is your daughter’s well being. As to your question, I’m afraid it’s very unlikely that she’ll ever walk again.” Can’t you just feel your arm aching to throw the poor book across the room? There’s a lot of important information here, but you can find subtler ways to work it into your story. Let’s try again: “How is she, Doctor?” “Well Mr. Stuffington, your daughter took quite a blow from that horse—worse than we initially thought. I’m afraid it’s very unlikely that she’ll ever walk again.” “And what am I supposed to say to Flippingshire?” “The Baron? I suppose you’ll have to tell him that his future wife has lost the use of her legs.”

And so forth. To create good dialogue exposition, look for little ways to work in the details of your story, instead of piling it up in one great clump.

Three mistakes to avoid when writing dialogue.

2. Too much small talk

We looked at how each line of dialogue needs a specific purpose above. Very often small talk in a story happens because the writer doesn’t know what the scene is about. Small talk doesn’t move the scene along unless it’s there for a reason. If you’re not sure, ask yourself what each character wants in this moment.

For example, imagine you’re in an office, and two characters are talking by the water cooler. How was your weekend, what did you think of the game, how’s your wife doing, are those new shoes, etc etc. Can’t you just feel the reader’s will to live slipping away?

But what about this: your characters are talking by the water cooler—Character A and Character B. Character A knows that his friend is inside Character B’s office looking for evidence of corporate espionage, so A is doing everything he can to stop B from going in. How was your weekend, what did you think of the game, how’s your wife doing, are those new shoes, literally anything just to keep him talking. Suddenly these benign little phrases have a purpose.

If you find your characters slipping into small talk, double check that it’s there for a purpose, and not just a crutch to keep you from moving forward in your scene. When writing dialogue, Make each line of dialogue earn its place.

3. Too much repetition

Variation is the spice of a good story. To keep your readers engaged, avoid using the same sentence structure and the same dialogue tags over and over again. Using “he said” and “she said” is effective and clear cut, but only for about three beats. After that, try switching to an action tag instead or letting the line of dialogue stand on its own.

Powerful dialogue elevates a story.

You can also experiment with varying the length of your sentences or groupings of sentences. By changing up the rhythm of your story regularly, you’ll keep it feeling fresh and present for the reader.

Effective dialogue examples from literature

With all of these tips and tricks in mind, let’s look at how other writers have used good dialogue to elevate their stories.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine , by Gail Honeyman

“I’m going to pick up a carryout and head round to my mate Andy’s. A few of us usually hang out there on Saturday nights, fire up the playstation, have a smoke and a few beers.” “Sounds utterly delightful,” I said. “What about you?” he asked. I was going home, of course, to watch a television program or read a book. What else would I be doing? “I shall return to my flat,” I said. “I think there might be a documentary about komodo dragons on BBC4 later this evening.”

In this dialogue example, the author gives her characters two very distinctive voices. From just a few words we can begin to see these people very clearly in our minds—and with this distinction comes the tension that drives the story. Dialogue is an excellent place to show your character dynamics using speech patterns and word choices.

Pride and Prejudice , by Jane Austen

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?” Mr. Bennet replied that he had not. “But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.” Mr. Bennet made no answer. “Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently. “You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.” This was invitation enough. “Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

In this famous dialogue example, the author illustrates the relationship between these two characters clearly and succinctly. Their dialogue shows Mr. B’s stalwart, tolerant love for his wife and Mrs. B’s excitement and propensity for gossip. The author shows us everything we need to know about these people in just a few lines.

Dinner in Donnybrook , by Maeve Binchy

“Look, I thought you ought to know, we’ve had a very odd letter from Carmel.” “A what… from Carmel?” “A letter. Yes, I know it’s sort of out of character, I thought maybe something might be wrong and you’d need to know…” “Yes, well, what did she say, what’s the matter with her?” “Nothing, that’s the problem, she’s inviting us to dinner.” “To dinner?” “Yes, it’s sort of funny, isn’t it? As if she wasn’t well or something. I thought you should know in case she got in touch with you.” “Did you really drag me all the way down here, third years are at the top of the house you know, I thought the house had burned down! God, wait till I come home to you. I’ll murder you.” “The dinner’s in a month’s time, and she says she’s invited Ruth O’Donnell.” “Oh, Jesus Christ.”

This dialogue example is a telephone conversation between two people. The lack of dialogue tags or action tags allows the words to come to the forefront and immerses us in their back-and-forth conversation. Even though there are no tags to indicate the speakers, the language is simple and straightforward enough that the reader always knows who’s talking. Through this conversation the author slowly builds the tension from the benign to the catastrophic within a domestic setting.

Compelling dialogue is the key to a good story

A writer has a lot riding on their characters’ dialogue, and learning how to write dialogue is a critical skill for any writer. When done well, it can leaves a lasting impact on the reader. But when dialogue is clumsy and awkward, it can drag your story down and make your reader feel like they’re wasting their time.

But if you keep these tips in mind, listen to dialogue in your everyday life, and practice , you’ll be sure to create realistic dialogue that brings your story to life.

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Last updated on Jul 24, 2023

15 Examples of Great Dialogue (And Why They Work So Well)

Great dialogue is hard to pin down, but you know it when you hear or see it. In the earlier parts of this guide, we showed you some well-known tips and rules for writing dialogue. In this section, we'll show you those rules in action with 15 examples of great dialogue, breaking down exactly why they work so well.

1. Barbara Kingsolver, Unsheltered 

In the opening of Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered, we meet Willa Knox, a middle-aged and newly unemployed writer who has just inherited a ramshackle house. 

     “The simplest thing would be to tear it down,” the man said. “The house is a shambles.”      She took this news as a blood-rush to the ears: a roar of peasant ancestors with rocks in their fists, facing the evictor. But this man was a contractor. Willa had called him here and she could send him away. She waited out her panic while he stood looking at her shambles, appearing to nurse some satisfaction from his diagnosis. She picked out words.      “It’s not a living thing. You can’t just pronounce it dead. Anything that goes wrong with a structure can be replaced with another structure. Am I right?”      “Correct. What I am saying is that the structure needing to be replaced is all of it. I’m sorry. Your foundation is nonexistent.”

Alfred Hitchcock once described drama as "life with the boring bits cut out." In this passage, Kingsolver cuts out the boring parts of Willa's conversation with her contractor and brings us right to the tensest, most interesting part of the conversation.

By entering their conversation late , the reader is spared every tedious detail of their interaction.

Instead of a blow-by-blow account of their negotiations (what she needs done, when he’s free, how she’ll be paying), we’re dropped right into the emotional heart of the discussion. The novel opens with the narrator learning that the home she cherishes can’t be salvaged. 

By starting off in the middle of (relatively obscure) dialogue, it takes a moment for the reader to orient themselves in the story and figure out who is speaking, and what they’re speaking about. This disorientation almost mirrors Willa’s own reaction to the bad news, as her expectations for a new life in her new home are swiftly undermined.



How to Write Believable Dialogue

Master the art of dialogue in 10 five-minute lessons.

2. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice  

In the first piece of dialogue in Pride and Prejudice , we meet Mr and Mrs Bennet, as Mrs Bennet attempts to draw her husband into a conversation about neighborhood gossip.

     “My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”      Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.      “But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”      Mr. Bennet made no answer.      “Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.      “You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”      This was invitation enough.      “Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

Austen’s dialogue is always witty, subtle, and packed with character. This extract from Pride and Prejudice is a great example of dialogue being used to develop character relationships . 

We instantly learn everything we need to know about the dynamic between Mr and Mrs Bennet’s from their first interaction: she’s chatty, and he’s the beleaguered listener who has learned to entertain her idle gossip, if only for his own sake (hence “you want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it”).

Dialogue examples - Mr and Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice

There is even a clear difference between the two characters visually on the page: Mr Bennet responds in short sentences, in simple indirect speech, or not at all, but this is “invitation enough” for Mrs Bennet to launch into a rambling and extended response, dominating the conversation in text just as she does audibly.

The fact that Austen manages to imbue her dialogue with so much character-building realism means we hardly notice the amount of crucial plot exposition she has packed in here. This heavily expository dialogue could be a drag to get through, but Austen’s colorful characterization means she slips it under the radar with ease, forwarding both our understanding of these people and the world they live in simultaneously.

3. Naomi Alderman, The Power

Dialogue examples - annotated passage of The Power by Naomi Alderman

In The Power , young women around the world suddenly find themselves capable of generating and controlling electricity. In this passage, between two boys and a girl who just used those powers to light her cigarette.

     Kyle gestures with his chin and says, “Heard a bunch of guys killed a girl in Nebraska last week for doing that.”      “For smoking? Harsh.”      Hunter says, “Half the kids in school know you can do it.”      “So what?”      Hunter says, “Your dad could use you in his factory. Save money on electricity.”      “He’s not my dad.”      She makes the silver flicker at the ends of her fingers again. The boys watch.

Alderman here uses a show, don’t tell approach to expositional dialogue. Within this short exchange, we discover a lot about Allie, her personal circumstances, and the developing situation elsewhere. We learn that women are being punished harshly for their powers; that Allie is expected to be ashamed of those powers and keep them a secret, but doesn’t seem to care to do so; that her father is successful in industry; and that she has a difficult relationship with him. Using dialogue in this way prevents info-dumping backstory all at once, and instead helps us learn about the novel’s world in a natural way.


Show, Don't Tell

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4. Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

Here, friends Tommy and Kathy have a conversation after Tommy has had a meltdown. After being bullied by a group of boys, he has been stomping around in the mud, the precise reaction they were hoping to evoke from him.

     “Tommy,” I said, quite sternly. “There’s mud all over your shirt.”      “So what?” he mumbled. But even as he said this, he looked down and noticed the brown specks, and only just stopped himself crying out in alarm. Then I saw the surprise register on his face that I should know about his feelings for the polo shirt.      “It’s nothing to worry about.” I said, before the silence got humiliating for him. “It’ll come off. If you can’t get it off yourself, just take it to Miss Jody.”      He went on examining his shirt, then said grumpily, “It’s nothing to do with you anyway.”

This episode from Never Let Me Go highlights the power of interspersing action beats within dialogue. These action beats work in several ways to add depth to what would otherwise be a very simple and fairly nondescript exchange.  Firstly, they draw attention to the polo shirt, and highlight its potential significance in the plot. Secondly, they help to further define Kathy’s relationship with Tommy. 

We learn through Tommy’s surprised reaction that he didn’t think Kathy knew how much he loved his seemingly generic polo shirt. This moment of recognition allows us to see that she cares for him and understands him more deeply than even he realized. Kathy breaking the silence before it can “humiliate” Tommy further emphasizes her consideration for him. While the dialogue alone might make us think Kathy is downplaying his concerns with pragmatic advice, it is the action beats that tell the true story here.

Dialogue examples - Kathy and Tommy from Never Let Me Go

5. J R R Tolkien, The Hobbit  

The eponymous hobbit Bilbo is engaged in a game of riddles with the strange creature Gollum.

     "What have I got in my pocket?" he said aloud. He was talking to himself, but Gollum thought it was a riddle, and he was frightfully upset.       "Not fair! not fair!" he hissed. "It isn't fair, my precious, is it, to ask us what it's got in its nassty little pocketses?"      Bilbo seeing what had happened and having nothing better to ask stuck to his question. "What have I got in my pocket?" he said louder. "S-s-s-s-s," hissed Gollum. "It must give us three guesseses, my precious, three guesseses."      "Very well! Guess away!" said Bilbo.      "Handses!" said Gollum.      "Wrong," said Bilbo, who had luckily just taken his hand out again. "Guess again!"      "S-s-s-s-s," said Gollum, more upset than ever. 

Tolkein’s dialogue for Gollum is a masterclass in creating distinct character voices . By using a repeated catchphrase (“my precious”) and unconventional spelling and grammar to reflect his unusual speech pattern, Tolkien creates an idiosyncratic, unique (and iconic) speech for Gollum. This vivid approach to formatting dialogue, which is almost a transliteration of Gollum's sounds, allows readers to imagine his speech pattern and practically hear it aloud.

Dialogue examples - Gollum and Bilbo in the hobbit

We wouldn’t recommend using this extreme level of idiosyncrasy too often in your writing — it can get wearing for readers after a while, and Tolkien deploys it sparingly, as Gollum’s appearances are limited to a handful of scenes. However, you can use Tolkien’s approach as inspiration to create (slightly more subtle) quirks of speech for your own characters.

6. F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Dialogue examples - annotated passage of The Great Gatbsy by F Scott Fitzgerald

The narrator, Nick has just done his new neighbour Gatsby a favor by inviting his beloved Daisy over to tea. Perhaps in return, Gatsby then attempts to make a shady business proposition.

     “There’s another little thing,” he said uncertainly, and hesitated.      “Would you rather put it off for a few days?” I asked.      “Oh, it isn’t about that. At least —” He fumbled with a series of beginnings. “Why, I thought — why, look here, old sport, you don’t make much money, do you?”      “Not very much.”      This seemed to reassure him and he continued more confidently.       “I thought you didn’t, if you’ll pardon my — you see, I carry on a little business on the side, a little side line, if you understand. And I thought that if you don’t make very much — You’re selling bonds, aren’t you, old sport?”      “Trying to.” 

This dialogue from The Great Gatsby is a great example of how to make dialogue sound natural. Gatsby tripping over his own words (even interrupting himself , as marked by the em-dashes) not only makes his nerves and awkwardness palpable but also mimics real speech. Just as real people often falter and make false starts when they’re speaking off the cuff, Gatsby too flounders, giving us insight into his self-doubt; his speech isn’t polished and perfect, and neither is he despite all his efforts to appear so.

Fitzgerald also creates a distinctive voice for Gatsby by littering his speech with the character's signature term of endearment, “old sport”. We don’t even really need dialogue markers to know who’s speaking here — a sign of very strong characterization through dialogue.

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7. Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet  

In this first meeting between the two heroes of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, John is introduced to Sherlock while the latter is hard at work in the lab.

      “How are you?” he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit. “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.”      “How on earth did you know that?” I asked in astonishment.      “Never mind,” said he, chuckling to himself. “The question now is about hemoglobin. No doubt you see the significance of this discovery of mine?”     “It is interesting, chemically, no doubt,” I answered, “but practically— ”      “Why, man, it is the most practical medico-legal discovery for years. Don’t you see that it gives us an infallible test for blood stains. Come over here now!” He seized me by the coat-sleeve in his eagerness, and drew me over to the table at which he had been working. “Let us have some fresh blood,” he said, digging a long bodkin into his finger, and drawing off the resulting drop of blood in a chemical pipette. “Now, I add this small quantity of blood to a litre of water. You perceive that the resulting mixture has the appearance of pure water. The proportion of blood cannot be more than one in a million. I have no doubt, however, that we shall be able to obtain the characteristic reaction.” As he spoke, he threw into the vessel a few white crystals, and then added some drops of a transparent fluid. In an instant the contents assumed a dull mahogany colour, and a brownish dust was precipitated to the bottom of the glass jar.      “Ha! ha!” he cried, clapping his hands, and looking as delighted as a child with a new toy. “What do you think of that?”

This passage uses a number of the key techniques for writing naturalistic and exciting dialogue, including characters speaking over one another and the interspersal of action beats. 

Sherlock cutting off Watson to launch into a monologue about his blood experiment shows immediately where Sherlock’s interest lies — not in small talk, or the person he is speaking to, but in his own pursuits, just like earlier in the conversation when he refuses to explain anything to John and is instead self-absorbedly “chuckling to himself”. This helps establish their initial rapport (or lack thereof) very quickly.

Breaking up that monologue with snippets of him undertaking the forensic tests allows us to experience the full force of his enthusiasm over it without having to read an uninterrupted speech about the ins and outs of a science experiment.

Dialogue examples - Sherlock Holmes

Starting to think you might like to read some Sherlock? Check out our guide to the Sherlock Holmes canon !

8. Brandon Taylor, Real Life

Here, our protagonist Wallace is questioned by Ramon, a friend-of-a-friend, over the fact that he is considering leaving his PhD program.

     Wallace hums. “I mean, I wouldn’t say that I want to leave, but I’ve thought about it, sure.”     “Why would you do that? I mean, the prospects for… black people, you know?”        “What are the prospects for black people?” Wallace asks, though he knows he will be considered the aggressor for this question.

Brandon Taylor’s Real Life is drawn from the author’s own experiences as a queer Black man, attempting to navigate the unwelcoming world of academia, navigating the world of academia, and so it’s no surprise that his dialogue rings so true to life — it’s one of the reasons the novel is one of our picks for must-read books by Black authors . 

This episode is part of a pattern where Wallace is casually cornered and questioned by people who never question for a moment whether they have the right to ambush him or criticize his choices. The use of indirect dialogue at the end shows us this is a well-trodden path for Wallace: he has had this same conversation several times, and can pre-empt the exact outcome.

This scene is also a great example of the dramatic significance of people choosing not to speak. The exchange happens in front of a big group, but — despite their apparent discomfort —  nobody speaks up to defend Wallace, or to criticize Ramon’s patronizing microaggressions. Their silence is deafening, and we get a glimpse of Ramon’s isolation due to the complacency of others, all due to what is not said in this dialogue example.

9. Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants

Dialogue examples - annotated passage of Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

In this short story, an unnamed man and a young woman discuss whether or not they should terminate a pregnancy while sitting on a train platform.

     “Well,” the man said, “if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple.”      “And you really want to?”      “I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you really don’t want to.”      “And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?”      “I love you now. You know I love you.”      “I know. But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?”      “I’ll love it. I love it now but I just can’t think about it. You know how I get when I worry.”      “If I do it you won’t ever worry?”      “I won’t worry about that because it’s perfectly simple.”

This example of dialogue from Hemingway’s short story Hills Like White Elephants moves at quite a clip. The conversation quickly bounces back and forth between the speakers, and the call-and-response format of the woman asking and the man answering is effective because it establishes a clear dynamic between the two speakers: the woman is the one seeking reassurance and trying to understand the man’s feelings, while he is the one who is ultimately in control of the situation.

Note the sparing use of dialogue markers: this minimalist approach keeps the dialogue brisk, and we can still easily understand who is who due to the use of a new paragraph when the speaker changes .

Like this classic author’s style? Head over to our selection of the 11 best Ernest Hemingway books .

10. Madeline Miller, Circe

In Madeline Miller’s retelling of Greek myth, we witness a conversation between the mythical enchantress Circe and Telemachus (son of Odysseus).

     “You do not grieve for your father?”        “I do. I grieve that I never met the father everyone told me I had.”           I narrowed my eyes. “Explain.”      “I am no storyteller.”      “I am not asking for a story. You have come to my island. You owe me truth.”       A moment passed, and then he nodded. “You will have it.” 

This short and punchy exchange hits on a lot of the stylistic points we’ve covered so far. The conversation is a taut tennis match between the two speakers as they volley back and forth with short but impactful sentences, and unnecessary dialogue tags have been shaved off . It also highlights Circe’s imperious attitude, a result of her divine status. Her use of short, snappy declaratives and imperatives demonstrates that she’s used to getting her own way and feels no need to mince her words.

11. Andre Aciman, Call Me By Your Name

This is an early conversation between seventeen-year-old Elio and his family’s handsome new student lodger, Oliver.

     What did one do around here? Nothing. Wait for summer to end. What did one do in the winter, then?      I smiled at the answer I was about to give. He got the gist and said, “Don’t tell me: wait for summer to come, right?”      I liked having my mind read. He’d pick up on dinner drudgery sooner than those before him.      “Actually, in the winter the place gets very gray and dark. We come for Christmas. Otherwise it’s a ghost town.”      “And what else do you do here at Christmas besides roast chestnuts and drink eggnog?”      He was teasing. I offered the same smile as before. He understood, said nothing, we laughed.      He asked what I did. I played tennis. Swam. Went out at night. Jogged. Transcribed music. Read.      He said he jogged too. Early in the morning. Where did one jog around here? Along the promenade, mostly. I could show him if he wanted.      It hit me in the face just when I was starting to like him again: “Later, maybe.”

Dialogue is one of the most crucial aspects of writing romance — what’s a literary relationship without some flirty lines? Here, however, Aciman gives us a great example of efficient dialogue. By removing unnecessary dialogue and instead summarizing with narration, he’s able to confer the gist of the conversation without slowing down the pace unnecessarily. Instead, the emphasis is left on what’s unsaid, the developing romantic subtext. 

Dialogue examples - Elio and Oliver from Call Me By Your Name

Furthermore, the fact that we receive this scene in half-reported snippets rather than as an uninterrupted transcript emphasizes the fact that this is Elio’s own recollection of the story, as the manipulation of the dialogue in this way serves to mimic the nostalgic haziness of memory.


Understanding Point of View

Learn to master different POVs and choose the best for your story.

12. George Eliot, Middlemarch

Dialogue examples - annotated passage of Middlemarch by George Eliot

Two of Eliot’s characters, Mary and Rosamond, are out shopping,

     When she and Rosamond happened both to be reflected in the glass, she said laughingly —      “What a brown patch I am by the side of you, Rosy! You are the most unbecoming companion.”      “Oh no! No one thinks of your appearance, you are so sensible and useful, Mary. Beauty is of very little consequence in reality,” said Rosamond, turning her head towards Mary, but with eyes swerving towards the new view of her neck in the glass.      “You mean my beauty,” said Mary, rather sardonically.       Rosamond thought, “Poor Mary, she takes the kindest things ill.” Aloud she said, “What have you been doing lately?”      “I? Oh, minding the house — pouring out syrup — pretending to be amiable and contented — learning to have a bad opinion of everybody.”

This excerpt, a conversation between the level-headed Mary and vain Rosamond, is an example of dialogue that develops character relationships naturally. Action descriptors allow us to understand what is really happening in the conversation. 

Whilst the speech alone might lead us to believe Rosamond is honestly (if clumsily) engaging with her friend, the description of her simultaneously gazing at herself in a mirror gives us insight not only into her vanity, but also into the fact that she is not really engaged in her conversation with Mary at all.

The use of internal dialogue cut into the conversation (here formatted with quotation marks rather than the usual italics ) lets us know what Rosamond is actually thinking, and the contrast between this and what she says aloud is telling. The fact that we know she privately realizes she has offended Mary, but quickly continues the conversation rather than apologizing, is emphatic of her character. We get to know Rosamond very well within this short passage, which is a hallmark of effective character-driven dialogue.

13. John Steinbeck, The Winter of our Discontent

Here, Mary (speaking first) reacts to her husband Ethan’s attempts to discuss his previous experiences as a disciplined soldier, his struggles in subsequent life, and his feeling of impending change.

     “You’re trying to tell me something.”      “Sadly enough, I am. And it sounds in my ears like an apology. I hope it is not.”      “I’m going to set out lunch.”

Steinbeck’s Winter of our Discontent is an acute study of alienation and miscommunication, and this exchange exemplifies the ways in which characters can fail to communicate, even when they’re speaking. The pair speaking here are trapped in a dysfunctional marriage which leaves Ethan feeling isolated, and part of his loneliness comes from the accumulation of exchanges such as this one. Whenever he tries to communicate meaningfully with his wife, she shuts the conversation down with a complete non sequitur. 

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We expect Mary’s “you’re trying to tell me something” to be followed by a revelation, but Ethan is not forthcoming in his response, and Mary then exits the conversation entirely. Nothing is communicated, and the jarring and frustrating effect of having our expectations subverted goes a long way in mirroring Ethan’s own frustration.

Just like Ethan and Mary, we receive no emotional pay-off, and this passage of characters talking past one another doesn’t further the plot as we hope it might, but instead gives us insight into the extent of these characters’ estrangement.

14. Bret Easton Ellis , Less Than Zero

The disillusioned main character of Bret Easton Ellis’ debut novel, Clay, here catches up with a college friend, Daniel, whom he hasn’t seen in a while. 

     He keeps rubbing his mouth and when I realize that he’s not going to answer me, I ask him what he’s been doing.      “Been doing?”      “Yeah.”      “Hanging out.”      “Hanging out where?”      “Where? Around.”

Less Than Zero is an elegy to conversation, and this dialogue is an example of the many vacuous exchanges the protagonist engages in, seemingly just to fill time. The whole book is deliberately unpoetic and flat, and depicts the lives of disaffected youths in 1980s LA. Their misguided attempts to fill the emptiness within them with drink and drugs are ultimately fruitless, and it shows in their conversations: in truth, they have nothing to say to one another at all.

This utterly meaningless exchange would elsewhere be considered dead weight to a story. Here, rather than being fat in need of trimming, the empty conversation is instead thematically resonant.

15. Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

Dialogue examples - annotated passage of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The young narrator of du Maurier’s classic gothic novel here has a strained conversation with Robert, one of the young staff members at her new husband’s home, the unwelcoming Manderley.

     “Has Mr. de Winter been in?” I said.      “Yes, Madam,” said Robert; “he came in just after two, and had a quick lunch, and then went out again. He asked for you and Frith said he thought you must have gone down to see the ship.”      “Did he say when he would be back again?” I asked.      “No, Madam.”      “Perhaps he went to the beach another way,” I said; “I may have missed him.”      “Yes, Madam,” said Robert.      I looked at the cold meat and the salad. I felt empty but not hungry. I did not want cold meat now. “Will you be taking lunch?” said Robert.      “No,” I said, “No, you might bring me some tea, Robert, in the library. Nothing like cakes or scones. Just tea and bread and butter.”      “Yes, Madam.”

We’re including this one in our dialogue examples list to show you the power of everything Du Maurier doesn’t do: rather than cycling through a ton of fancy synonyms for “said”, she opts for spare dialogue and tags. 

This interaction's cold, sparse tone complements the lack of warmth the protagonist feels in the moment depicted here. By keeping the dialogue tags simple , the author ratchets up the tension —  without any distracting flourishes taking the reader out of the scene. The subtext of the conversation is able to simmer under the surface, and we aren’t beaten over the head with any stage direction extras.

The inclusion of three sentences of internal dialogue in the middle of the dialogue (“I looked at the cold meat and the salad. I felt empty but not hungry. I did not want cold meat now.”) is also a masterful touch. What could have been a single sentence is stretched into three, creating a massive pregnant pause before Robert continues speaking, without having to explicitly signpost one. Manipulating the pace of dialogue in this way and manufacturing meaningful silence is a great way of adding depth to a scene.

Phew! We've been through a lot of dialogue, from first meetings to idle chit-chat to confrontations, and we hope these dialogue examples have been helpful in illustrating some of the most common techniques.

If you’re looking for more pointers on creating believable and effective dialogue, be sure to check out our course on writing dialogue. Or, if you find you learn better through examples, you can look at our list of 100 books to read before you die — it’s packed full of expert storytellers who’ve honed the art of dialogue.

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Writing A Narrative Essay

  • Library Resources
  • Books & EBooks
  • What is an Narrative Essay?
  • Choosing a Topic
  • MLA Formatting

Using Dialogue

  • Using Descriptive Writing
  • OER Resources
  • Copyright, Plagiarism, and Fair Use

how to structure dialogue in an essay

Examples of Dialogue Tags

Examples of Dialogue Tags:


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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

Formatting Dialogue

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.

  • Example: 

"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

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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Peter Mountford Writing Coach

6 Tips for Dialogue in Personal Essays

Using dialogue in creative nonfiction (essays and memoirs) can be a powerful way to bring the reader into the scene. Here are some tips on how to use dialogue effectively in essays and nonfiction.

Tip #1: Write Dialogue Sparingly and Concisely

Dialogue is a major component of fiction. But in personal essays and other creative nonfiction, dialogue should be used sparingly and only when it adds value. Scenes tend to be much shorter in essays, and there are fewer of them. Dialogue should only be used for exciting situations—funny, sharp conflict, or a vivid display of interesting character traits.

Make sure your essay’s dialogue is concise and to the point. Don't include long, rambling conversations that don't add value to the essay. Many personal essays don’t even have dialogue—but might offer a few one-off lines of dialogue as examples of things people might say.

Here’s an example from THIS Melissa Febos essay:

One day at lunch, after I polished off a soggy square of cafeteria pizza, the girl next to me stared with bald attention.

“What?” I said, self-consciousness radiating through me.

“You eat so fast. I can’t even finish a whole piece of that,” she said, with a touch of self-satisfaction. “It’s so big.”

Tip #2: Use Quotation Marks and Proper Punctuation

As with fiction, use proper quotation marks in essays to indicate when someone is speaking (see the example above). Read more on how to use quotation marks in essays and fiction.

Tip #3: Add Meat to Dialogue Bones

Wrap your dialogue in dialogue tags (he said, she said), action beats (actions happening in the scene that aren’t spoken), and character interiority (responses to spoken dialogue). Using these tools helps clarify who is speaking and enhances character development.

Here, from Leslie Jamison’s “Dreamers in Broad Daylight ”:

She asked, “What do you daydream about?”

I had a perverse impulse to say the most embarrassing thing. I said sometimes I daydreamed about winning a Pulitzer. The talkative woman said, “There you go! I would never feel entitled to do that.” Which made me feel ashamed in an entirely different way. 

In the midst of our fervent back-and-forth, the woman’s quiet husband said, very quietly, “I daydream all the time.” 

He spoke so softly I barely heard him. But his wife heard him. She asked him—as she’d asked me—what he daydreamed about. He said nothing. She said, “Go on, you can say. I don’t mind.” He fiddled with the handle of his coffee cup. 

“No really,” she said. “You can say.” 

Tip #4: Enjoy Creative License with Dialogue

No one has a stenographer present—or usually, we don’t. So we’re relying on our memory. This means all dialogue in memoir essays and creative nonfiction is only approximately true. Read more at Writer’s Digest: Writing Memoir: Peering Into Memories and Mary Karr’s Life .

Tip #5: Use Dialogue to enhance your writing 

Dialogue can add variety and interest to your writing. Use it to break up long blocks of text and create a more dynamic reading experience for your reader.

Remember that dialogue should be used intentionally and with purpose. It can be a powerful tool for conveying information and enhancing your writing, but only when used effectively.

Tip #6: Mini-Scenes with Dialogue can be REALLY short

Take a look at the number of mini-scenes in the opening of Wesley Morris’s incredible award-winning 2020 essay “My Mustache, My Self ” (I count NINE mini-scenes, sometimes just a snippet of dialogue, in this first page; also, some of these scenes are summarized scenes, i.e., no quoted dialogue):

Like a lot of men, in pursuit of novelty and amusement during these months of isolation, I grew a mustache. The reviews were predictably mixed and predictably predictable. “Porny”? Yes. “Creepy”? Obviously. “ ’70s”? True (the 18- and 1970s). On some video calls, I heard “rugged” and “extra gay.” Someone I love called me “zaddy.” Children were harsh. My 11-year-old nephew told his Minecraft friends that his uncle has this … mustache ; the midgame disgust was audible through his headset. In August, I spent two weeks with my niece, who’s 7. She would rise each morning dismayed anew to be spending another day looking at the hair on my face. Once, she climbed on my back and began combing the mustache with her fingers, whispering in the warmest tones of endearment, “Uncle Wesley, when are you going to shave this thing off?”

It hasn’t been all bad. Halfway through a quick stop-and-chat outside a friend’s house in July, he and I removed our masks and exploded at the sight of each other. No way: mustache! I spent video meetings searching amid the boxes for other mustaches, to admire the way they enhance eyes and redefine faces with a force of irreversible handsomeness, the way Burt Reynolds never made the same kind of sense without his. The mustache aged me. (People didn’t mind letting me know that, either.) But so what? It pulled me past “mature” to a particular kind of “distinguished.” It looks fetching, for instance, with suits I currently have no logical reason to wear.

One afternoon, on a group call to celebrate a friend’s good news, somebody said what I didn’t know I needed to hear. More reviews were pouring in (thumbs down, mostly), but I was already committed at that point. I just didn’t know to what. That’s when my friend said, “You look like a lawyer for the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund!”

What I remember was laughter. But where someone might have sensed shade being thrown, I experienced the opposite. A light had been shone. It was said as a winking correction and an earnest clarification. Y’all, this is what it is. The call moved on, but I didn’t. That is one of the sweetest, truest things anybody had said about me in a long time.

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How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates

Published on September 18, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction , a body , and a conclusion . But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

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Table of contents

The basics of essay structure, chronological structure, compare-and-contrast structure, problems-methods-solutions structure, signposting to clarify your structure, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay structure.

There are two main things to keep in mind when working on your essay structure: making sure to include the right information in each part, and deciding how you’ll organize the information within the body.

Parts of an essay

The three parts that make up all essays are described in the table below.

Order of information

You’ll also have to consider how to present information within the body. There are a few general principles that can guide you here.

The first is that your argument should move from the simplest claim to the most complex . The body of a good argumentative essay often begins with simple and widely accepted claims, and then moves towards more complex and contentious ones.

For example, you might begin by describing a generally accepted philosophical concept, and then apply it to a new topic. The grounding in the general concept will allow the reader to understand your unique application of it.

The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay . General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body.

The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis . Ask yourself whether each piece of information advances your argument or provides necessary background. And make sure that the text clearly expresses each piece of information’s relevance.

The sections below present several organizational templates for essays: the chronological approach, the compare-and-contrast approach, and the problems-methods-solutions approach.

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The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go.

A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a series of events. Don’t rule out other approaches, though—even when the chronological approach is the obvious one, you might be able to bring out more with a different structure.

Explore the tabs below to see a general template and a specific example outline from an essay on the invention of the printing press.

  • Thesis statement
  • Discussion of event/period
  • Consequences
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement
  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages
  • Background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press
  • Thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation
  • High levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe
  • Literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites
  • Consequence: this discouraged political and religious change
  • Invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg
  • Implications of the new technology for book production
  • Consequence: Rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention
  • Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation
  • Consequence: The large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics
  • Summarize the history described
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period

Essays with two or more main subjects are often structured around comparing and contrasting . For example, a literary analysis essay might compare two different texts, and an argumentative essay might compare the strengths of different arguments.

There are two main ways of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay: the alternating method, and the block method.


In the alternating method, each paragraph compares your subjects in terms of a specific point of comparison. These points of comparison are therefore what defines each paragraph.

The tabs below show a general template for this structure, and a specific example for an essay comparing and contrasting distance learning with traditional classroom learning.

  • Synthesis of arguments
  • Topical relevance of distance learning in lockdown
  • Increasing prevalence of distance learning over the last decade
  • Thesis statement: While distance learning has certain advantages, it introduces multiple new accessibility issues that must be addressed for it to be as effective as classroom learning
  • Classroom learning: Ease of identifying difficulties and privately discussing them
  • Distance learning: Difficulty of noticing and unobtrusively helping
  • Classroom learning: Difficulties accessing the classroom (disability, distance travelled from home)
  • Distance learning: Difficulties with online work (lack of tech literacy, unreliable connection, distractions)
  • Classroom learning: Tends to encourage personal engagement among students and with teacher, more relaxed social environment
  • Distance learning: Greater ability to reach out to teacher privately
  • Sum up, emphasize that distance learning introduces more difficulties than it solves
  • Stress the importance of addressing issues with distance learning as it becomes increasingly common
  • Distance learning may prove to be the future, but it still has a long way to go

In the block method, each subject is covered all in one go, potentially across multiple paragraphs. For example, you might write two paragraphs about your first subject and then two about your second subject, making comparisons back to the first.

The tabs again show a general template, followed by another essay on distance learning, this time with the body structured in blocks.

  • Point 1 (compare)
  • Point 2 (compare)
  • Point 3 (compare)
  • Point 4 (compare)
  • Advantages: Flexibility, accessibility
  • Disadvantages: Discomfort, challenges for those with poor internet or tech literacy
  • Advantages: Potential for teacher to discuss issues with a student in a separate private call
  • Disadvantages: Difficulty of identifying struggling students and aiding them unobtrusively, lack of personal interaction among students
  • Advantages: More accessible to those with low tech literacy, equality of all sharing one learning environment
  • Disadvantages: Students must live close enough to attend, commutes may vary, classrooms not always accessible for disabled students
  • Advantages: Ease of picking up on signs a student is struggling, more personal interaction among students
  • Disadvantages: May be harder for students to approach teacher privately in person to raise issues

An essay that concerns a specific problem (practical or theoretical) may be structured according to the problems-methods-solutions approach.

This is just what it sounds like: You define the problem, characterize a method or theory that may solve it, and finally analyze the problem, using this method or theory to arrive at a solution. If the problem is theoretical, the solution might be the analysis you present in the essay itself; otherwise, you might just present a proposed solution.

The tabs below show a template for this structure and an example outline for an essay about the problem of fake news.

  • Introduce the problem
  • Provide background
  • Describe your approach to solving it
  • Define the problem precisely
  • Describe why it’s important
  • Indicate previous approaches to the problem
  • Present your new approach, and why it’s better
  • Apply the new method or theory to the problem
  • Indicate the solution you arrive at by doing so
  • Assess (potential or actual) effectiveness of solution
  • Describe the implications
  • Problem: The growth of “fake news” online
  • Prevalence of polarized/conspiracy-focused news sources online
  • Thesis statement: Rather than attempting to stamp out online fake news through social media moderation, an effective approach to combating it must work with educational institutions to improve media literacy
  • Definition: Deliberate disinformation designed to spread virally online
  • Popularization of the term, growth of the phenomenon
  • Previous approaches: Labeling and moderation on social media platforms
  • Critique: This approach feeds conspiracies; the real solution is to improve media literacy so users can better identify fake news
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on media literacy education in schools
  • This allows people to assess news sources independently, rather than just being told which ones to trust
  • This is a long-term solution but could be highly effective
  • It would require significant organization and investment, but would equip people to judge news sources more effectively
  • Rather than trying to contain the spread of fake news, we must teach the next generation not to fall for it

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how to structure dialogue in an essay

Signposting means guiding the reader through your essay with language that describes or hints at the structure of what follows.  It can help you clarify your structure for yourself as well as helping your reader follow your ideas.

The essay overview

In longer essays whose body is split into multiple named sections, the introduction often ends with an overview of the rest of the essay. This gives a brief description of the main idea or argument of each section.

The overview allows the reader to immediately understand what will be covered in the essay and in what order. Though it describes what  comes later in the text, it is generally written in the present tense . The following example is from a literary analysis essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .


Transition words and phrases are used throughout all good essays to link together different ideas. They help guide the reader through your text, and an essay that uses them effectively will be much easier to follow.

Various different relationships can be expressed by transition words, as shown in this example.

Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany. Although it was an outcome the Allies had hoped to avoid, they were prepared to back up their ultimatum in order to combat the existential threat posed by the Third Reich.

Transition sentences may be included to transition between different paragraphs or sections of an essay. A good transition sentence moves the reader on to the next topic while indicating how it relates to the previous one.

… Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

However , considering the issue of personal interaction among students presents a different picture.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

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The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

how to write dialogue in an essay

Knowing how to insert source materials into an essay is a central theme of academic writing. Sources can be cited to support your argument, expand it or even to be used to dissect a counter-argument and examine its validity.

This skill is so essential the rules of using quotation marks of when quoting texts are pounded into the student’s head. So much so you know when to quote a textual source and the reason to do so.

One of the areas many students struggle with is when or how they should use dialogue in an essay. A high number of essay writers don’t even know the difference between dialogue and quotes, let alone the correct punctuation surrounding it. The main reason it happens is because a large number of academic subjects focus solely on claim-based essays where dialogue is not used. This article will look at why dialogue can be so effective within a narrative essay and why. The topics discussed will be:

What is dialogue?

When do you use dialogue?

Why use dialogue?

How to write dialogue?

And Where you can find more information on this subject.

Dialogue: A definition

Dialogue is defined as a literary technique that writers use to depict a conversation between two or more people. Dialogue is a device that is employed in all kinds of fiction – movie, plays, books and can even be used in essays. It's important not to confuse dialogue with quotations from an outside source. Dialogue is largely made up to create a more visual, dramatic effect. Whereas direct quotes can be verified through citations.

Quotation marks are used with quoting from source as well as to mark dialogue in an essay but the conventions around the two change. As such, it is important to know the difference between the two.

Here is a small table that documents the main differences.

One of the biggest mistakes an essay writer makes is when they use dialogue as a direct quote. This mistake occurs as we are trained to use speech as direct quotes in claim-based essays. As we are trained to do this in the majority of our subjects, we don't know that we can use crafted narration and create dialogue in narrative essays to give them more weight. Due to this, we do not understand the conventions around its use or why to use it.

Dialogue: When to Use it.

Dialogue is a big part of the movies, television, novels, and plays. It is important to keep in mind that when it comes to essay writing, a dialogue only really appears in one type of essay – the narrative essay.

A narrative essay differs from most kinds of essay writing. Other types of essays often aim to make a claim about something. If we look at an argumentative essay , for example, it makes a claim that one point of view is right. And an expository essay will make claims about how a model or idea works. A narrative essay doesn't make claims like this. It is an essay that is used to relate stories and experience to the reader, and as such, it is much more story like in nature. These experiences include conversations the writer has had with other people.

Presenting conversations you had with friends as dialogue in an argumentative essay or expository piece wouldn’t do much to strengthen your argument and would undermine your creditability. It is better to use direct quotes from the source – even if it is spoken material. Direct quotes will be seen as the conventional norm as these types of essay expect the writer to be objective and scientific in their discussion.

Dialogue: Why do you use dialogue

Narrative essays use dialogue as a device – much like written fiction. They add depth, tension and character development to nonfiction writing. It also helps move the story along. As it is reported speech, you would be unlikely to remember all the details; so, you will have to recreate them from memory – remember to use the words, tones, and emotions that report it in the correct flavor. Readers will trust realistic dialogue that captures the situation.

Dialogue: How to format

This section will demonstrate the correct formatting conventions to use when inserting your dialogue into a narrative essay. This section will look at the correct usage of the quotation marks, and where to put other punctuation marks. This will be looking at the U.S rules of grammar – the formations and convention in other variants of English might differ.

Quotations Marks

There are three main rules that surround the usage of quotation marks:

Double quotation marks are used to signify that a person is using speech.

Example: - When I was young, my father warned me, “Look in both direction before you cross the road.”

Single quotation marks are used to mark quotes in quotes.

Example: - “I remember read Oscar Wilde’s quote ‘I can resist everything except temptation’ and feeling so inspired,” the creative writer coach said.

When dialogue extends across several paragraphs, use quotation marks at the start of each paragraph, but only use the closing quotation make when the speech ends.

Example: - Rupert nodded and said, "Yeah I think you're correct. If we lay the carpet before painting the ceiling, we'll need dust sheets.

But if we do the ceiling before laying the new carpet it should be fine.”

If the quote is at the end of a sentence, always put the full stop inside the quotation marks.

Incorrect: - The bus driver said, “This is your stop”.

Correct: - The bus driver said, “This is your stop.”

Question marks and exclamation should be placed inside the quotation mark if they apply to the person's speech.

Incorrect: - The boy screamed, “Watched out the ceiling is falling”!

Correct: - The boy screamed, “Watched out the ceiling is falling!”

When the quote is simply embedded in a larger sentence that is a question or exclamation the punctuation should be placed outside the speech marks.

Incorrect : -How did you feel when the newscaster said, “JFK had been shot?”

Correct: - How did you feel when the newscaster said, “JFK had been shot”?

If a speech tags fall before the quote use a comma before the quotation marks to separate them.

Incorrect: - My brother said “I’m telling mom that you stole the cookies from the jar.”

Correct: - My brother said, “I’m telling mom that you stole the cookies from the jar.”

If the speech tag comes after the quotation marks, then the coma should be placed in the speech marks

Incorrect: - “Just be back in time for tea” My mum warned me before I went to play.

Correct: - “Just be back in time for tea,” My mum warned me before I went to play.

When a sentence is interrupted with a speech tag, a comma should be placed after the first segment of speech and at the end of the speech tag.

Incorrect: - “No” Karen said wrinkling her nose in disgust “That’s just all kinds of wrong.”

Correct: - “No,” Karen said wrinkling her nose in disgust, “That’s just all kinds of wrong.”

It is important to learn how to use quotation marks and punctuation correctly. These rules act as a convention between reader and writer, and as such, using them will make your work easier to read and understand. Without following these rules, your dialogue might be confusing and messy to the reader, which means it will not convey the message you want it to.

Dialogue: Where to find more resources

Here is a collection of some great links that will aid you in crafting the perfect narrative essay , and making sure you get your dialogue quotation spot on. You’ll be writing an amazing narrative essay in no time at all.

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how to structure dialogue in an essay

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  • Tips on How to Write Dialogue in an Essay with Ease
  • How to Format Dialogue: Examples and Writing Tips

dialogue in an essay

What Is a Dialogue and Its Types?

How to format dialogue in an essay, quotation marks and capitalization.

  • Punctuation

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.

Before you start writing an essay, it is essential to know your goal and what thoughts you want to deliver to your reader. An essay outline serves as a skeleton of the paper you are going to write. It can be a bit more complicated to develop a well-written essay if you have no structure to follow. Y...

Students face the necessity to write lots of essays. Balanced paragraph and topic sentences are an inevitable part of any good paper. They express the main idea of a paragraph, informing the reader what it is about, and help make the paper coherent. Good topic sentences have some compulsory elements...

Writing a thesis statement may seem to be an impossible task at first. There’s a good reason for that! It may not be simple to convey the idea of the whole essay in one or a couple of sentences. But no worries! With the right guidance, it can be done easily. With practice, it will become as easy as ...

How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

All writers know about the power of dialogue. There is no way to avoid such a literature tool in your books, articles, and other types of content. That’s why a skill to write awesome dialogues is essential for successful students.

Dialogue: When and why to Use it

Dialogue is an essential technique that helps writers demonstrate relationships between 2 and more characters in books, articles, or other types of texts. This literature device is useful for different genres of content and has no limitations. If you need to depict a direct speech of people you can use dialogue in your academic papers too.

Note, that dialogue is not the same as quotations from primary or secondary sources. Its task is to create a dramatic effect of conversation between 2 and more people. Here are the main particularities of dialogue comparing to direct quote:

  • describes the conversation between people but not citing the exact source;
  • usually happens in book or movie like the main focus of it but not supporting evidence;
  • uses quotation marks in a special style.

That’s why you shouldn’t use dialogue in your text as a direct quote. Find out how and when to use this literature technique.

First of all, remember that dialogue may appear only in a narrative essay among all academic papers. This type of essay aims to relate stories to the target audience and the author has to share dialogues with other people. So with the help of good dialogues the writer can improve his writings with additional depth, emotions, and descriptions.

How to make a quote in an essay

Unfortunately, students face with numerous mistakes with their dialogues. That’s why before writing this section you require to understand all rules about proper dialogue formatting. Here are 3 mains rules to use quotation marks in dialogues:

  • Use double quotation marks to identify the direct speech . For instance: My mother always said to me “Look what you’ve done!”
  • Use single quotation marks to show the quote in the quote. For instance: “I consider Marco Polo’s quote ‘I have not told the half of what I saw’ is very fair”, my friend once said.
  • When you need to write a very long quote you can divide it for 2 or several paragraphs. But don’t forget to add quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph and use the closing quotation mark on the end of the speech. For instance: “I guess you are right. I hope that we will be alive till the morning.

But still, I feel scared. Let’s just pray for now.”

Also, the college essay writing requires from author to use punctuation properly. That’s why this list of punctuations rules will be useful for you too:

  • Place the full stop in the quotation marks if your direct quotes end the sentence.
  • If exclamation and question marks belong to the speech of your character, you must place them inside quotation marks.
  • If you have speech tags before direct words then add a comma outside marks to make them separated. If your speech tags are placed after the direct speech you need to place a comma inside quotation marks.

Rules to Format Dialogue

There are a lot of useful tips from professional writers you can use in writing dialogues. Such pieces of advice will give your essay additional benefit. But at the beginning of this task, you have to pay attention to the general and ultimate requirements. So follow these strict dialogue writing rules no matter what.

Rule 1: Punctuation goes inside quotations

The punctuation also belongs to the speaker who says this phrase. So to place a comma and other punctuation marks outside quotations will be considered as a mistake. Make sure that you add all punctuation marks and only then you may finish the dialogue.

Rule 2: A new speaker – a new line

Your dialogue will consist of two and more people. As a result, you must visually divide them into different sections. That’s why the text of each new speaker starts with a new line. Even if the phrase consists of one world you must form text this way.

Rule 3: Break up dialogue in two parts

You can separate the speaker’s text if his speech is quite long. Such formatting helps to keep fine readability and doesn’t break writing dialogue rules. Just remember to control quotation marks: you don’t need to place them on the end and have to add them at the beginning of the next paragraph.

How to Write Dialogue That’s Realistic and Effective

Writing dialogue is not a simple task. But with the professional tips you will be able to impress your readers and deserve the award of the best dialogues in an essay. Here are the most efficient rules that will help you make dialogues more realistic and exciting.

Say it outloud first

This is the easiest tip to check your dialogue quality. When we read something silently we can’t get the full atmosphere. But when we hear something we can analyze it for a realistic impression. If you notice, that a part of your dialogue sounds unusual or even cheesy you should correct it. Remember that most writers write sentences in an unusual style and need to improve their quotes in a more realistic style .

Keep it brief and impactful

Trying to make the dialogues more realistic the author may make another mistake – to describe the full conversation. As a result, his dialogue will be boring and twisted. Remember, that your characters do not speak as average people. They mostly share only relevant information that suits the storyline.

Avoid small talk

It is okay to explain what your character has eaten for breakfast only if it matters for the storyline. In other cases, this is a small talk that means nothing to the reader. Try to avoid such sentences and use more relevant information. Also, you are able to all small talks to highlight the particularities of a scene or a character’s mood. Just keep watching not to make a dialogue boring.

Give your characters a unique way of speaking

Sometimes authors make different characters to speak the same way. It is the same as to watch a movie in a single voiceover. So if you want people to differ in your essay you must develop characters and make them unique. For instance, your character will use the exact word more often than others

Show, don’t tell

You must develop your characters to make them unique and attractive. It’s essential to show your readers different particularities of people in your dialogue. It means you require using not only traditional descriptions but also the bright imagination of readers.

Greetings and goodbyes aren’t always necessary

As it was previously said, your characters should share useful information to keep the storyline. That’s why saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ too often will harm the readability of your essay. Besides, it’s better to use modern slang instead of typical phrases. For example, use ‘what’s up’ instead of ‘hi’.

Common Dialogue Mistakes to Avoid

Even professional authors do mistakes. But you are good enough to fix and avoid them to increase the quality of your narrative essay. Here is the list of the most common mistakes students do while preparing dialogue in an essay:

  • they use the characters’ names too often. You can repeat people’s name but not too often because we don’t do it in a real life;
  • explain obvious things in dialogues. It is okay to explain to readers some interesting facts but don’t make your text boring;
  • use repetitive dialogue tags. Most readers insist that is it one of the most annoying things in the world to do;
  • use repetitive styles of writing dialogue in an essay. That’s why the author must control he uses different formats to make dialogue more exciting.

Use these dialogue writing rules and additional assistance to make your text awesome. Be sure to keep all requirements and format dialogue in the right way!

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how to structure dialogue in an essay

How to Write Dialogue in an Essay – Useful Guide

how to write dialogue in an essay

  • peachyessay
  • February 14, 2021
  • Blogs , Essay Writing Guideline

Learning how to effectively write dialogue in an essay can be challenging when you do not have the right kind of guidance. Not unless an individual would wish to write a textbook, one must learn how to correctly develop a dialogue and use it correctly since there are numerous ways a person could go wrong. Even the book that has the best plot will be rendered useless if it does not have an effective dialogue. This is because, if the dialogue is not impressive, the majority of the readers will not be interested in reading the book. Most readers pay more attention to the dialogue.

A dialogue can be defined as a literal technique used by writers to describe a conversation involving two or more people. The use of dialogue is utilized in different areas such as books, plays, movies, and it could also be used in writing essays. People should be careful not to mistaken a dialogue with quotations. The primary objective of a dialogue is creating a more dramatic and visual effect. One of the common mistakes made by most writers is using dialogues in place of direct quotes; something which occurs because they are used at including quotes when making a speech.

At times, adding dialogue in your paper could be one of the most effective ways of scoring impressive grades in your studies or increasing your reader`s impression. The use of dialogue is a great way of demonstrating your character`s emotions and bringing out the kind of relationship that exists among the characters. Writing impressive dialogues requires a lot of time, patience, and practice. The challenge in writing dialogue in an essay is often because the skills required to complete such tasks is not the same as those required in writing a thesis or top-notch essays. The writer begins by writing a story instead of an essay. Nonetheless, you will also be required to expose your thesis statement in regards to a certain issue, not just to make the reader reflect and think of it, but also to be able to make a comparison of the counter-arguments. Individuals struggling to write dialogue in their essay can always seek assistance from Peachy Essay .

Difference between the Quotes and the Dialogues

Quotes are used for a variety of reasons. To begin with, they support evidence or arguments and they are also used in naming the original source by providing first-hand information. The primary objective of quotes is setting off and representing the exact words from another person.

Dialogue is one of the literary techniques in which the writer uses two or more characters to engage in a conversation. There is also an inner personal dialogue, also referred to as a monologue. Dialogues are mostly used in narrative essays , movies, and books during the unravelling of the plot.

Important Things to Consider when Writing Dialogue in an Essay

Things to Consider when Writing Dialogue in an Essay

The primary objective of including dialogue in an essay is expressing opinions. Therefore, let us say that you have identified your topic and you have gathered all the necessary information to support your thesis. In your introduction, you should present your dialogue`s main character; and provide a short description of their personal convictions or bibliography.

The use of quotes

Unlike in other types of writing such as research papers and essays, you should not include direct quotes in your paper. However, the writer can incorporate other people`s theories or ideas without directly quoting them.

When writing dialogue in an essay, you do not need to struggle so much to be creative. Instead, all you need to do is to improve your imaginative skills.

The number of characters

A typical dialogue will require two characters so as to demonstrate the two sides of a given situation. Some writers will prefer using Plato`s dialogue, while others may use the Socrates` method. Both of these techniques are complex and hence, it is recommended to use a simple method such as employing two characters.

There are two ways through which a writer can communicate their arguments. The first method is through the use of en bloc, where all the arguments are presented in one paragraph. In the second method, the writer exposes their arguments using different paragraphs. The second method is more advisable since the reader is able to follow the point of the argument by point.

Dialogue Writing Topics

Is it easy to generalize an entire group of people based on one identity such as race?

Why should you bring spirituality into business?

Two zookeepers talk about an elephant and its baby.

Child and Elderly Parent talk about ageing

Parent and young adult child talk about problems such as being into a relationship

Parent and elementary student talk about school

Parent and young child talk about shopping in the supermarket

A child calls the parents about joining a football team

A conversation between the doctor and a sick person

A neighbour calls another one complaining about the noise

A conversation between a seller and a buyer who was delivered wrong items

A sister and a brother discuss a family event

A father reminding her daughter to complete her assignments

A child requesting permission from the parent to attend a party

A difficult patient speaking to the hospital manager

How to Punctuate Dialogue in an Essay

Dialogue is an essential part of any kind of writing since it can relay information or facts, reveal characters, or drive action. A writer must have a lot of practice and skills for them to write compelling and realistic dialogue; and so does punctuate your paper using the correct format. There are a set of rules and individual should adhere to when making a dialogue. Apparently, some of these guidelines can be difficult to uphold.

Learning how to correctly punctuate a dialogue neither sounds like an interesting topic nor fun to study. However, it plays an essential role especially when it comes to ensuring the communication between all the involved characters makes sense to the audience. A well-punctuated paper will assist your audience in connecting effectively to the characters.

The good thing is that dialogue punctuation rules are mostly simple and straightforward. Therefore, once an individual learns the basics, the process becomes second to nature. You will be surprised by how fast you will be writing those spoken exchanges with your fictional characters. The following punctuation rules will assist you in coming up with top-notch papers;

Punctuation Dialogue Rules

Rule 1 – Use quote marks and commas

Use quotation marks to surround your dialogue and end it with comma. Identify the speaker by ending with a dialogue tag. For instance:

“This is my favourite dress,” said Pauline.

“I have kept your keys on top of the table,” Arnold insisted.

Rule 2 – Create a new paragraph for the new speakers

Every time you have a new speaker, you should create your paragraph on a new line. For instance:

“This is my favourite dress,” said Sheila.

“It looks terrible on you,” said Martin.

Rule 3 – Insight periods inside the quotation marks when you are not using dialogue tags

You should always use a comma inside the quotation marks when your sentences end with a dialogue tag. In situations where you are not using a dialogue tag, you may want to introduce a period inside your quotation marks. For instance:

Alvin walked across the bedroom to the dresser. “I swear I put your books here.”

Rule 4 – Avoid the use of multiple sentences. AVOID RUN-ON SENTENCES

Rule 5 – Avoid using a comma for action within the dialogue

Rule 6 – Learn how to punctuate your dialogue in reverse

How do you Write Dialogue in an Essay MLA?

Different kinds of writing will require different formatting styles. There are a couple of things an individual should pay more focus on when writing using the MLA format. For instance, when it comes to formatting indirect quotes, the MLA approach does not require any quotation marks:

Arnold explained that he was late because his puppy tried eating a chilly pepper.

The use of quotation marks and commas are used for separating speech tags:

“Your work here is completed, you may leave now.”

Tips for Writing Impressive Dialogue in an Essay

Writing top-notch essays is not easy; it requires a lot of hard work. As a writer, you are tasked with capturing the reflexive dynamic of human conversation, which is not easy. Unfortunately, most writers do not get it right from the start. Most writers fall into two categories; they love writing dialogue but they fill their writings with useless exchanges or they do not love writing dialogue and hence, they try to avoid the task as much as they can. However, there is also the third group of writers were very few writers manage to join. This is the group of writers who have a good understanding of the importance of dialogue in a story. These writers know how to use dialogue as a tool for enhancing their storytelling.

Dialogue is an essential tool that can assist the writer in developing the story`s characters. It can aid in establishing a backstory as well as revealing important plot details, which the reader may not be aware of yet. A dialogue can establish the mood, tighten, or ease the tension created among the characters. A well-written dialogue should fulfil the following criteria;

It must push the story forward in the sense that each the exchange or conversation should direct the audience closer to the climax of the story`s conclusion.

It should reveal the character`s relevant information, in the sense that dialogue should provide the audience with insights regarding the character`s emotions, feelings, and source of motivation.

It should assist the audience in having a better understanding of the kind of relationship that exists among the characters.

tips to write excellent dialogue in an essay

Keep it brief

Your dialogue should not be too long. If you realize that what you are writing is long, chances are high that you might not be writing a novel, but a play. Most of the well-written dialogues are brief. The writer does not have to dive into so many details so as to reveal a certain fact concerning the character`s emotions, motivations, and their perception of the world.

Avoid the small talk

You should avoid ruining your dialogue with small talks. Each dialogue should provide essential information that will add value to your writing. Some people will try to make their dialogue sound real by including small talks, which is wrong. The truth is that small talks could ruin the effectiveness of your scene. Therefore, rather than beginning with “Hey, how are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” you should dive straight into the action: “I cannot believe that you still have the audacity to speak after what you did to my father.”

Give each character a unique way of speaking

Generally, every person has a unique way of speaking. The same thing should apply to your characters. You need to ensure that each of your characters has a unique way of delivering their thoughts and speaking. Whereas some people are more deliberate and forceful, others tend to be meandering and passive.

Create suspense

A dialogue should assist the writer in creating suspense among the characters. It is human nature for an individual to withhold their emotions or feelings. Most people have a lot of things that are unsaid and the same is true for the characters that are in novels. For the writer to create a realistic scenario, they must be cognizant of the fact that people have a lot of unsaid things.

Be consistent

Every time you write your dialogue in an essay, you should always remember to be consistent with your characters. It is not possible for an individual who speaks in a shy and self-deprecating manner to automatically begin speaking acerbically and boldly. Even without the character tag, the audience should be able to tell the person who is speaking.

Focus on showing and not telling

When creating a dialogue, it is very easy for the writer to tell the character`s emotions and feelings instead of showing them. Rather than saying that character X is angry, the right way would have been describing the character`s body using words such as deep breaths, narrow eyes, and tight lips.

Minimize the use of identity tags

Your audience will quickly get bored if they frequently come across words such as “she said” or “he said.” Using these words removes the audience from the immersive world and reminds them that they are just watching a film.

It is not always necessary to use greetings and goodbyes

Whereas the use of greetings and goodbyes may denote your politeness, they are not always necessary when it comes to writing dialogues.

Read it out aloud

This step is always involved in the editing phase, where the writer is required to read their manuscript aloud. Apparently, if you notice that your paper seems to lack a flow, chances are high that it will also be the same to your audience.

Common Dialogue Mistakes Writers Should Avoid

Too much talk

At times, silence could communicate a message more effectively as compared to using too many words. In most cases, the things which are left unsaid end up carrying more weight than those that were said. There are times when words may never be enough to communicate a character`s emotions. Therefore, when writing your dialogue in an essay, avoid using too much talk.

Unimportant conversations

As a writer, your conversations should create tension, friction, and communicate vital information. If your sentences are doing none of the three above mentioned purposes, you should consider leaving them out.

Incorrect dialogue punctuation

You need to be careful not to confuse the readers with wrong punctuations. Therefore, you should make correct use of quotation marks and thereafter, take enough time to make a decision about your dialogue format.

Forgotten dialogue tags

If there are chances that the audiences have difficulties in telling which character is speaking, you will need to introduce more dialogue tags in your writing. However, you should be careful not to overcrowd your page with too many unnecessary tags.

Concluding Remarks

From psychology reports, personal reflections, and narrative essays, writing dialogue in an essay could easily affect a student`s ability to delivering top-notch papers. Writing such kind of papers requires the writer to have a lot of skills and experience. A dialogue represents a special kind of literary device that permits the writers to portray conversations involving two or more characters. People should be careful not to mistaken a dialogue with quotations. The primary objective of a dialogue is creating a more dramatic and visual effect. It is understandable that not every person can have the right skills of writing impressive dialogue in an essay. As a result, individuals can always seek any form of writing assistance from this website . However, it is important to always remember that with adequate experience, you will be able to write top-notch papers.

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how to structure dialogue in an essay

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How to Have More Meaningful Conversations

Communication heads

T hink, for a moment, about who you would call if you were having a bad day. If you’d screwed up a deal at work, or gotten into an argument with your spouse, or were feeling frustrated and sick of it all: Who would you want to talk to? There’s probably someone you know will make you feel better, who can help you think through a thorny question, or share a moment of heartbreak or joy.

That person, for you, is what I like to call a “supercommunicator” (and odds are, for them, you are a supercommunicator, too.) All of us, at times, achieve moments of supercommunication. But there are some people who are supercommunicators much more consistently—they know how to connect with nearly anyone, to make conversations easier, to make us feel like we’ve really been heard. We all know supercommunicators: They’re the people everyone seems to know, the ones likely to be elected to positions of authority, the folks others turn to when they need to discuss something serious or ask for advice.

Over the past three years, I’ve explored the research behind supercommunication, and encountered important lessons. Most notably, we’re not born knowing how to communicate effectively. Rather, communication is a set of skills that nearly anyone can learn. Supercommunicators aren’t inherently more charismatic or extroverted. Rather, they just think about communication a little bit harder, and have mastered the tools that allow them to connect.

Read More: Charles Duhigg on Changing Your Habits

So what, exactly, are those supercommunicators doing that makes you feel so good?

There’s a number of skills they’ve mastered. Research shows that supercommunicators ask 10 to 20 times as many questions as the average person—but many of those questions ( “What did you think about that?” “What did you say next?” ) hardly register, except to make us feel like someone is listening. Other questions—what are known as “deep questions”—ask people to describe their beliefs, values, and experiences in ways that reveal something about themselves beyond the simple facts of their lives. (“How’d you decide to become a lawyer?” “What was it like growing up in a small town?”)

Supercommunicators are also good at reading the room: When a conversation gets stuck, they make it easy for everyone to take a quick break by bringing up a new topic or interrupting an awkward silence with a small joke.

What’s more, supercommunicators often engage in a process known as looping for understanding , which encourages everyone, including themselves, to listen more closely. Looping has three steps: Ask a question; repeat back what you heard in your own words; and then ask if you got it right. This is powerful because one of the strongest human impulses is social mimicry . If someone starts asking questions and looping their companions, everyone else becomes more likely to ask questions, listen closely, and loop in return.

All these skills have something important in common: they allow supercommunicators to show their companions they want to connect.

Take, for instance, laughter. Studies show that roughly 80% of the time, when we laugh, it is not in reaction to anything funny. Rather, we laugh in response to something banal—“Are we finally going to dinner?” — in order to show that we want to connect with someone. And when they laugh back—the most natural reaction—they are showing us they want to connect with us, as well.

The same thing happens with other forms of non-linguistic communication. When someone frowns, or their voice goes quiet and intimate, we have an instinct to mimic them, to apply what is known within psychology as the Matching Principle of Communication. Supercommunicators listen to those instincts and nurture those urges, because they know that when we match someone, we show them we want to listen—and they, in return, become more willing to listen to, and trust, us.

The truth is, anyone can become a supercommunicator. We can all learn to hear more clearly, to speak so we’re easier to understand, to connect on a deeper level. And, today, learning to have meaningful conversations is, in some ways, more urgent than ever before. It’s no secret the world has become increasingly polarized, that we struggle to hear and be heard. If we know how to sit down together and listen, then, even if we can’t resolve every disagreement, we can find ways to coexist and thrive.

When we show each other that we want to connect—by asking questions, looping for understanding, and matching people when they become emotional, practical, or when the discussion goes in an unexpected direction—we usually find something we have in common, something we can build on to form a real relationship.

Every meaningful conversation is made up of countless small choices. There are fleeting moments when the right deep question, or a vulnerable admission, or a kind word can completely change a dialogue. A silent laugh, a barely audible sigh, a friendly expression during a tense moment: Some people have learned to spot these opportunities, to detect what kind of discussion is occurring, to understand what others really want. They have learned how to hear what’s unsaid and speak so others want to listen. And that’s important, because the right conversation, at the right moment, can change everything.

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    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.

  2. How to Write a Dialogue in an Essay: The Ultimate Guide

    Dialogue in an essay can be implemented when writing fiction or nonfiction narrative work. As an example, working with (or citing) movies, plays, books or reports, its usage may even become obligatory for greater effect. However, one should not mistake dialogue with academic research necessity to directly quote from journals, books or any other ...

  3. How to Properly Format Dialogue (With Examples)

    Place punctuation inside quotation marks. All punctuation like commas, exclamations, or interrogation marks, go inside the double quotations. Keep dialogue tags behind quotation marks. A dialogue tag is (1) words framing direct speech to convey the context and emotions of a conversation.

  4. How To Format Dialogue (includes examples) • First Manuscript

    Dialogue Format Rules If you are writing dialogue in a manuscript, then the first line of each paragraph is indented. (The same as every other paragraph in the manuscript.) See our article on Proper Manuscript Format for full details on manuscript formatting. 1. Enclose the spoken words with double quotation marks. "I love it when that happens."

  5. How to Format Dialogue in Your Novel or Short Story

    1. Use Quotation Marks to Indicate Spoken Word Whenever someone is speaking, their words should be enclosed in double quotation marks. Example: "Let's go to the beach." 2. Dialogue Tags Stay Outside the Quotation Marks Dialogue tags attribute a line of dialogue to one of the characters so that the reader knows who is speaking.

  6. How to Write Dialogue: A Guide for Beginners

    Start Using Dialogue Tags Anytime someone says something, use quotation marks around what they say, and usually, you need to use dialogue tags. The tag indicates who said what. Here are some examples. Wrong: "Good morning." Right: "Good morning," my boss said. There's no need to fear dialogue tags.

  7. How to Write Dialogue in an Essay: Perfect Writing Guide

    How to add dialogue in an essay: you can either use double quotation marks to indicate what someone said, or start in a new line using a Dash followed by the actually spoken phrase every time a new character speaks. This demonstrates that dialogue conversations have started. "Elisa gave me this purse for my birthday."

  8. How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

    Dialogue: What It Is and What It Isn't In order for you to know how to write dialogue in an essay, you should know what exactly dialogue is first. It's really pretty simple. Dialogue is just a conversation between two or more people. It can be used in movies, plays, fiction or, in this case, essays.

  9. How to Write Dialogue

    Dialogue is the written conversational exchange between two or more characters. How to Write Dialogue 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.

  10. FORMATTING DIALOGUE Center for Writing and Speaking

    FORMATTING DIALOGUE Center for Writing and Speaking Dialogue is a crucial aspect of nearly every narrative. Dialogue makes the story dynamic, enlivens the characters, and moves the action along unobtrusively. However, the guidelines governing how to arrange and punctuate dialogue can be confusing.

  11. How to Write Dialogue: Rules, Examples, and 8 Tips for Engaging Dialogue

    Rules for writing dialogue Before we get into how to make your dialogue realistic and engaging, let's make sure you've got the basics down: how to properly format dialogue in a story. We'll look at how to punctuate dialogue, how to write dialogue correctly when using a question mark or exclamation point, and some helpful dialogue writing examples.

  12. 15 Examples of Great Dialogue (And Why They Work So Well)

    Master the golden rule of writing in 10 five-minute lessons. 4. Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go. Here, friends Tommy and Kathy have a conversation after Tommy has had a meltdown. After being bullied by a group of boys, he has been stomping around in the mud, the precise reaction they were hoping to evoke from him.

  13. LibGuides: Writing A Narrative Essay: Using Dialogue

    Formatting Dialogue 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.

  14. How to Write Dialogue: Formatting, Examples, & Tips

    Format & Punctuation. Examples. Tips for Dialogue. Say the dialogue out loud. Cut small talk when writing dialogue. Keep your dialogue brief and impactful. Give each character a unique voice. Add world-appropriate slang. Be consistent with the characters' voices.

  15. How to Write Internal Dialogue: Dialogue Formatting Guidelines

    Written by MasterClass Last updated: Sep 3, 2021 • 3 min read Internal dialogue can tell the reader what a character is thinking. It can provide deep insight into a character's thoughts, fears, self-esteem, and general point of view.

  16. 6 Tips for Dialogue in Personal Essays

    Tip #1: Write Dialogue Sparingly and Concisely Dialogue is a major component of fiction. But in personal essays and other creative nonfiction, dialogue should be used sparingly and only when it adds value. Scenes tend to be much shorter in essays, and there are fewer of them.

  17. How to Structure an Essay

    The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

  18. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    number of paragraphs in your essay should be determined by the number of steps you need to take to build your argument. To write strong paragraphs, try to focus each paragraph on one main point—and begin a new paragraph when you are moving to a new point or example. A strong paragraph in an academic essay will usually include these three ...

  19. How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

    Dialogue: A definition Dialogue is defined as a literary technique that writers use to depict a conversation between two or more people. Dialogue is a device that is employed in all kinds of fiction - movie, plays, books and can even be used in essays. It's important not to confuse dialogue with quotations from an outside source.

  20. How to Format Dialogue in an Essay

    Punctuation Reporting Verbs and Dialogue Tags How to Quote a Dialogue in an Essay Correctly MLA APA 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.

  21. How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

    Here are 3 mains rules to use quotation marks in dialogues: Use double quotation marks to identify the direct speech. For instance: My mother always said to me "Look what you've done!" Use single quotation marks to show the quote in the quote.

  22. How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

    A dialogue can be defined as a literal technique used by writers to describe a conversation involving two or more people. The use of dialogue is utilized in different areas such as books, plays, movies, and it could also be used in writing essays. People should be careful not to mistaken a dialogue with quotations.

  23. How to Format Dialogue

    Learn how to correctly format dialogue for your short story.If you're struggling through your college English classes and you're hoping to improve your Engli...

  24. dialogue

    21. The way I see it, if the foreign language usage is important to the story, then use it in italics. If not, just avoid putting it explicitly in the text. For example, assume you write a fantasy novel in which Elves always add the word Ur-Sook when addressing little children. Compare: "Not now, Ur-Sook !"

  25. How to Have More Meaningful Conversations

    A silent laugh, a barely audible sigh, a friendly expression during a tense moment: Some people have learned to spot these opportunities, to detect what kind of discussion is occurring, to ...

  26. The Three C's in Lijo Jose Pellissery's Films: A Deep Dive Video Essay

    However, for Lijo Jose Pellissery, the formula for a good film lies in the mix of three C's. In this in-depth video essay, we will explore how the three C's manifest in Lijo Jose Pellissery's works, emphasizing their crucial role in shaping the narrative and how they are presented in his movies. The comments posted here/below/in the given space ...