Formatting Rules On How To Write A Dialogue In An Essay – Small Things That Make The Difference

Learning how to write a dialogue in an essay is not necessarily about the actual dialogue. As long as you do not do it like you are in your first grade – by mentioning that he said this and she said that, you should be alright. Use your imagination and the right words to create a constant flow.

What most writers struggle with is formatting the dialogue. If you want it to look professional, you better follow a bunch of small rules that can make the difference. Unfortunately, many writers overlook this aspect and this is when you can stand out in the crowd. These tips should help you learn how to write a dialogue in an essay like a pro.

1. Quotation marks

The words spoken by your character should go in double quotation marks. This is the most common option out there unless you write this essay for a British school or company. The British rely on single quotation marks. In fact, they tend to reverse the use of single and double quotation marks.

“I love staring at the moon.”

2. Separate sentences

You are supposed to use separate sentences if there is action around the dialogue – be it before or after it. These actions go in different sentences.

Alex shouted. “Stay where you are!”

What happens if there is no action then? If your character shouts out the words, stick to a comma, rather than a different sentence. Everything becomes part of one sentence.

Alex shouted, “Stay where you are!”

The difference may seem insignificant, but it will help you describe a situation in smaller details.

3. Quotations within dialogues

What do you do if you have to quote something within a dialogue? At this point, you need to underline it properly, so stick to single quotation marks. Again, if you write this essay for a British committee, you should use double quotation marks.

James smiles and looked at him. “When that girl said, ‘Hi!’ you blushed like a shy kid.”

4. Lower and upper case letters

Learning how to write a dialogue in an essay should have you ready for all situations – the more diversified, the better. Is there an action interrupting a sentence in your dialogue? At this point, the first letter of the second part must be written in lower case.

“I am aware,” he whispered, “of what happened after the meeting.”

5. He said and she said

These parts are referred to as dialogue tags. They never make it to the quotes. They should be out of them and only used to describe the situation in a more efficient way. You also need to use a comma to separate them accordingly. You will need to start tags in lower case if you have to end the dialogue with an exclamation mark or a question mark.

“Stop harassing me”, said Angela.
“What do you mean?” he asked.

6. Punctuation rules

Make sure you respect the rules in terms of punctuation. It may sound like a small detail, but it can make the difference. It will also show your readers that you are aware of every single rule in the book. From this point of view, you should know that punctuation must be inside the quotes. Make sure you do not add a comma or other types of punctuation if you end your dialogue with an ellipsis.

John yelled at her. “This is it!”
“I guess it is…” her voice whispered.

7. Paragraphs and confusion

All those quotes and the lack of explanations can be confusing for your reader. This is why dialogues are so space consuming. As a general rule of thumb, you should start a new paragraph whenever someone else speaks.

Even if speakers perform all kinds of actions during the dialogue, they should go in the same paragraph. Otherwise, your reader will get confused and forget who is saying what. When you start a new paragraph, you indicate a change.

“How is it?”
“One of the best lasagnas I have ever had.”

As a short final conclusion, small details will seriously give you some credit when learning how to write a dialogue in an essay. Your readers are aware of these rules and the good news is they are usually overlooked by amateurs, so respecting them will most likely impress your audience.