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Notes, tutorials, exercises, thoughts, workshops and resources about writing or storytelling art

How to Format Dialogue in a Story

Depending on the type of story you are writing, your dialogues will be subject to different standards. Getting acquainted with them will save you many headaches.

1. The Film and TV Script

TThis is one of the most rigid formats as it is a technical document used by film crews in order to develop the final product. The dialogue will be center-aligned. The speaking character’s name will be capitalized, the stage directions (if any) will appear just below the name, and the lines of dialogue will be at the bottom. Here’s an example:

How to Use Dialogue Tags Properly

Since dialogue belongs to the characters, the narrator’s remarks can sometimes spoil it. However, they become necessary in a long conversation or in a dialogue with many members. If you want to know how to use them, here is a list of helpful tricks:

how to write dialogue

1. Brevity is the soul of wit.

As readers, we all are used to expressions such as “said John,” “asked Mary,” or “replied Sue,” but they should be used carefully because they slow down the reading pace. The same goes for adverbs or unnecessary explanations. As an example, look at this dialogue:

Ten Keys to Write Effective Dialogue

If we listened to a real conversation and tried to put it into words, we would soon realize that the resulting dialogue fails on a narrative level. Real conversations are full of interruptions, unfinished sentences, and inconsistencies.

The key to writing effective dialogue is to keep the authenticity of a real conversation but not at the expense of fluency and clarity. But how is that put into practice?

Reasons for Using Dialogue in a Story

Dialogues are a very useful tool in any story. Not only do they give voice to the characters, but they are also helpful at many other levels.

Writing Dialogue

Before talking about that, I want to share an excerpt of a dialogue from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I have selected this example because its dialogues are dynamic, lively, and very funny indeed: