Rules for Writing Dialogue

  1. Dialogue should stay on topic,
  2. Use dialogue as you would regular speech,
  3. Opt for the speaker said over all others,
  4. Avoid long speeches,
  5. Sound like the character, right down to accent and incorrect grammar
  6. Show what the characters are doing while they’re talking,
  7. Keep characters’ speech consistent.

When breaking the rules makes sense…

How many rules have you broken and why? Breaking these rules can be helpful and useful or it can be a sign of poor writing. Writer’s Digest magazine warns, however, “Words can be barbs. They can be sabers. They can be jewels. Don’t let them be marshmallows that are passed back and forth.” Dialog is the most useful technique writers have to define and develop characters, move the story, and provide background. Of course, there are exceptions to these rules. Knowing when to use them and when to break them is the difference between ‘writing’ and ‘good writing’.

An editor comes to the rescue…

You think it sounds just about perfect, your spouse and a few lodge friends love it. But is it ready for submission. An editor could be just what you need to put your manuscript over the top. By editor, I’m talking about a professional editor, not a friend or relative—an unbiased individual who will give you a professional evaluation of your manuscript.



Filed under Uncategorized, writing

2 responses to “Rules for Writing Dialogue

  1. Nevuela

    You forgot a very important rule: keep the use of names to a bare minimum. In fact, NEVER have one character address another by name if they are only two characters conversing in a scene. Most people rarely, if ever, use their friends’ names when speaking to them, especially when there is nobody else around. The more people involved in a conversation, the more likely you will need to address a specific person by name so that they will know you are replying to them and nobody else.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how many bestselling authors I’ve seen overuse character names in dialogue. ALWAYS read your dialogue out loud, and if you can, get a friend to read the responses so you can hear how the conversation would go in a real-life setting.

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