Dialogue Tips

Dialogue Writing Tips

Some writers love writing dialogue while some hate it, in most cases I have found a writer’s feeling about it is directly proportional to how capable they are at using it. 

Regardless of how you or they feel about it, dialogue (words spoken aloud) or internal/inner dialogue (words thought) are a vital part of prose writing. When done well they can propel a story along, add depth to characters, and provide information. 

However, when done badly, they can make a story stilted, clunky and unrealistic. 

Avoid long diatribes

Long paragraphs of any kind rarely work in everyday fiction, so avoid writing dialogue that has one person talking for half a page. Instead keep it short and realistic. If your character must talk for an extended time break it up with actions and pauses, perhaps even interjections from other characters or inner dialogue. 


In today’s world we rarely speak the King’s English, it’s more like a mixture of slang, colloquialism and everyday chitchat. In most cases we alter words like ‘did not’ to ‘didn’t’ and ‘will not’ to ‘won’t’. In fact, the only times we usually hear people speaking without these contractions is if English is not their native language or if they are truly ‘old school’. 

Slang and colloquialisms can be used when writing dialogue, in fact when used in moderation they can help build the character of the person speaking. However, be aware that using this kind a language can date your work and may make reading harder if you use it liberally. 

Make it realistic

Take some time to listen to everyday conversation around you. Become aware of phrasing, pauses, actions and everything else we do without thinking when conversing with others. To research this more consider listening to radio or audio plays


Read it aloud

This is perhaps the most important dialogue writing tip of all - always, always, always read dialogue aloud to see if it sounds authentic. 

Formatting Dialogue Tips
When you’re physically writing dialogue there are certain rules that it’s necessary to stick to.

• Start a new line when a new person starts speaking. 

• Dialogue needs to be typed in inverted commas, pick either double (“) or single (‘), but whichever you choose be consistent with them. 

• Internal/inner dialogue (thinking) does not need to be in inverted commas. 

• Remember to show who is speaking, it needn’t be a ‘he said’ or a ‘she said’, an action works just as well providing we are told who is doing it. 

• During a discussion include a name of who is speaking after every five to six pieces of dialogue otherwise the reader may find themselves counting back to find out who actually said what. 

• Avoid tags to your dialogue like ‘he laughed’ and ‘he smirked’. In reality words are always said never laughed or smirked. 

• Dialogue is always stronger if it has a sentence to itself rather then being slipped into the middle of sentence. 
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