When Writing a Story, What Dialogue Rules Should I Use?

When writing a story, dialogue rules are important

Dialogue is the reported conversation between two or more characters within a narrative. It could be found in a book, play, film, or any other type of story format.

If we want to include dialogue in our story, we have to use specific rules. Correct grammar and structure let us show our characters are talking clearly. It’s essential that when we write, everyone uses the same rules. It ensures we can all communicate with each other. When writing a story, dialogue rules change depending on the story’s medium. This page will focus on how to follow the directions for writing a narrative for a book.

How to format dialogue in a story

  1. Quotation marks or inverted commas are used to indicate spoken words. These should be doubled when meaning direct speech. For example:

“I’m starting to learn how to write dialogue,” she said.

  1. A dialogue tag is the part of the sentence that indicates how and who says something within the story. In the above example, she said is the dialogue tag. The dialogue tag always stays outside the quotation marks.

The dialogue tag would still be in lowercase if there were a question mark or exclamation point after the dialogue. You treat it just as you would a comma. It would look like this:

“I’m starting to learn how to write dialogue!” she said.

However, when the dialogue tag is before the speech, a comma appears before the first quotation marks. For example:

She said, “I’m starting to learn how to write dialogue!”

  1. Separate sentences are used for actions before or after the dialogue. It’s essential to ensure that what is happening in the narrative is discernible from the speech. The punctuation helps to show this:

Isla entered the room. “Who goes there?” she said.

  1. The punctuation changes when characters quote somebody else in their dialogue. It ensures that the reader recognizes it is not the character’s words. For this, you would use single quotation marks. Have a look at this example:

Luke started to weep. “When you said, ‘This was the worst thing I’ve tasted!’ it hurt my feelings,” he said.

  1. New paragraphs are used to show when someone new is speaking. These are also always indented to mark the change in speech.

“Finn, please, can you hand me that toy?” Penny said.

“Here, I was finished playing anyway,” Finn replied.

  1. When a paragraph is needed because the speech is so long, there are different punctuation rules. The only difference is that closing quotation marks are not used at the end of every paragraph. They are only used at the end of the final spoken sentence. It may look something like this:

Bernard looked at his exercise book and muttered. “This is going to be the best use of my time. I am going to learn all about writing dialogue. Dialogue rules are the most important aspects to follow when writing a story.

“Learning this will help me write my novel and become a best-selling author. I plan to create a story all about swimming across the ocean. My character will talk to all the sailors and mermaids along the way. It will be a wonderful tale.”

  1. When your character is interrupted, use an em dash. An em dash (—) is used to show when there is an abrupt end to the dialogue. These are not to be confused with hyphens; hyphens are shorter and are used for something else. It is good to know from a grammar point of view; however, for teaching ease, you may want to keep them the same while kids are learning. These dashes should be placed within quotation marks. How to use an em dash:

Isla called out, “Who goes there? What do you—”

“It’s me!” said Luke.

  1. Finally, don’t use punctuation in addition to an ellipsis. If you want the dialogue to trail off as if the character is purposefully not finishing the sentence, use the ellipsis. You don’t need to add a comma or any other punctuation. For example:

“When writing a story, dialogue rules should be in lists of 8. I guess this is the end of the line…” the teacher said, his voice trailing off.

You’re all set to become a great dialogue writer!

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