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. Write as your character speaks, complete with bad grammar, accents and (if writing for adults) curse words and profanity,
  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.

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5 thoughts on “Rules for Writing Dialogue

  1. Nice post. I agree with all of the “rules” except 5. Since when does society truly speak in perfect grammar? Many of them don’t. I find dialogue to be boring if all of the characters have perfect grammar structures and completely sound the same.

    Of course you did mention that these rules can be broken. And it would make sense that rule 5 could be broken more often if the author is writing about an uneducated character. I like how you highlighted the importance of an editor.

    Like

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