054: 8 Steps to Perfect Dialogue Format

8 Steps to Perfect Dialogue Format

Best Practices for Writing Conversations

June 2, 2017

Got questions? ICL instructors have the answers. Ask your question at www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

Are you enjoying the podcast? Click here to tweet about it!


      

Click here to download the show notes with extra resources!

What's the question you're afraid to ask about writing in today's market?

The faculty of the Institute of Children’s Literature is waiting to answer your question! Ask it RIGHT HERE.

ARE YOU PROPERLY FORMATTING YOUR DIALOGUE?

Formatting dialogue in any manuscript can be perplexing. Follow these 8 guidelines so you don't get tripped up by tricky dialogue.

1. Check that all spoken dialogue is enclosed in quotation marks and that punctuation occurs inside the quotation marks. [Enclosing all punctuation within the quotes is standard style of most American publishers.]

2. Only spoken words go in quotes, thoughts do not need to be set off with quotation marks. Some writers use italics to set off thoughts.

3. The best verb for tagging your dialogue is “said.” Use other verbs when they truly add to the moment. And do not use verbs as speech tags unless they actually describe speech: sneered, snorted, or giggled, and the like are not speech tags because they are not specific ways we vocalize words.

For all eight tips, listen to the full episode.

Click here to download the show notes with extra resources!

Comments

Katie Davis
June 8, 2017

Julian, we're not saying don't overdo it, we're trying to teach to do it correctly so your readers get the most out of your writing. Check this out: “Mrs. Jones,” he wailed, “We need new robot technology!” “Johnny, I disagree,” Mrs. Jones opined, “Humans must succeed on their own.” He screamed, “But without them, the zombie apocalypse will kill us all!” “Johnny,” Mrs. Jones begged, “please just finish the math equation.” With the example above, you’re distracting from the story. All you need is “said.” It’s also easy to fall into the lazy trap of trying to have your tags do your work for you, as in: “I don’t like fighting zombies,” he said angrily. Better not to use adverbs in that case. Instead, SHOW his anger. Let your reader feel his temper. We teach all about “adverbitis” and other writerly “disorders” like too much stage business, everything you ask above, and elaborate tagging through our Writing for Children and Teens course, and have incredible bonus resources like our article on story dialogue available to students. We also teach about something you want to avoid (and can avoid by using “said”), which is making dialogue into something it can’t be, like: “I hate cooking broccoli,” she steamed. You can’t steam your dialogue. 8-) Keep it to “said,” so you (and your reader) can concentrate on what’s important: your story.

Katie Davis
June 8, 2017

Julian, we're not saying don't overdo it, we're trying to teach to do it correctly so your readers get the most out of your writing. Check this out: “Mrs. Jones,” he wailed, “We need new robot technology!” “Johnny, I disagree,” Mrs. Jones opined, “Humans must succeed on their own.” He screamed, “But without them, the zombie apocalypse will kill us all!” “Johnny,” Mrs. Jones begged, “please just finish the math equation.” With the example above, you’re distracting from the story. All you need is “said.” It’s also easy to fall into the lazy trap of trying to have your tags do your work for you, as in: “I don’t like fighting zombies,” he said angrily. Better not to use adverbs in that case. Instead, SHOW his anger. Let your reader feel his temper. We teach all about “adverbitis” and other writerly “disorders” like too much stage business, everything you ask above, and elaborate tagging through our Writing for Children and Teens course, and have incredible bonus resources like our article on story dialogue available to students. We also teach about something you want to avoid (and can avoid by using “said”), which is making dialogue into something it can’t be, like: “I hate cooking broccoli,” she steamed. You can’t steam your dialogue. 8-) Keep it to “said,” so you (and your reader) can concentrate on what’s important: your story.

Julian D. Woodruff
June 7, 2017

To be your gadfly: Why is everyone so insistent on using "said" when writing dialog? "Oh my God--It's the Boston strangler!," she said. Uh-huh. Admittedly, you do allow the use of other words, depending on context, so I'm kinda pulling your leg here. But really, why not use words other than said, not just now & then, but when they fit. If you're writing a longish conversation, with several participants, it seems to me you'd want to shape the conversation, maybe show its emotional development, & not just with the words the characters use, but with the the way the character speaks: "Fred interjected," "Mary muttered," "Sam erupted." And to say that people don't actually erupt, volcanoes do, is to declare in so many words that all readers--well, at least all young readers--are morons. Seems to me, anyway. Are you really just saying, be careful not to overdo it? Thanks for hearing me--reading me, that is.

H. Lorraine Herriott
June 6, 2017

I enjoy the Podcasts because they keep me current along with the many other resources. I am a recent graduate of the ICL although it took me along time because life situations came into play. I am still pursuing a writing career. Hope to be published at some point either self pub. Or the regular route.

Add Comment

Great Read!

By Mara Kim Amazon review, Verified Purchase

"This is another great read from [ICL]... When I saw this particular one, I grabbed it immediately ... This book is a great addition to a writer's (whether published or not) shelf ... I highly recommend their writing courses. You receive feedback on your work from published authors. You will be encouraged but also pushed to make your story from good to great."