Writing Tip 17: Formatting Dialogue

BY ROWAN SYLVA

Basic formatting issues around dialogue bothered me alot when I was first writing because I did not always understand the rule. Understanding basic formatting rules around dialogue can really help the flow of writing.

 

1.      Always indent the line for new speaker even if the line is the beginning of a new section or chapter.

2.      Always put punctuation marks inside the quote marks

3.      Always put a comma before he said/she said.

 

“I'm here,” jack said.

 

1.      Actions can replace speech in dialogue and justify their own lines.

“Are you coming?” asked Jack.

Susan shook her head.

“Well you are missing out,” he said.

 

1.      Sometimes you don't have to say he said/she said if you pair it with an action. This also makes the dialogue more interesting.

“Are you coming?” Jack opened the door.

Susan shook her head.

“Well you are missing out,” he said.

 

1.      The american system for dialogue uses double quote marks “”. the British system uses single ‘’.

“Im American,” Jack said.

‘I’m British,’ Susan said.

 

1.      When writing a quotation within quotation use single if you are using the american system and double if using the british system.

“What did she tell you?” Jack asked.

“She said, ‘Jack’s a nice guy,’” said Susan.

 

Or

 

‘What did she tell you?’ Jack asked.

‘She said, “Jack’s a nice guy,”’ said Susan.