What Are the 10 Essential Rules of Dialogue?

Good dialogue brings characters to life and moves the story along. However, crafting effective dialogue isn’t easy. In this guide, we’ll be exploring the ten rules of dialogue, which are fundamental components of any dialogue writing.

Rule One: Each Speaker Gets a New Paragraph

Whenever a new person speaks, start a new paragraph. This helps the reader follow the conversation and can enhance the pacing of your story.

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Rule Two: Use Quotation Marks

Dialogue should always be enclosed within quotation marks to distinguish it from non-spoken text. Punctuation for what’s said goes inside the quotation marks, unless you’re using British English standards.

Rule Three: Maintain Punctuation

When it comes to formatting dialogue, proper punctuation is crucial. The absence or misuse of punctuation can change the tone or meaning of the dialogue.

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Rule Four: Use Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags, such as ‘he said’ or ‘she whispered’, are necessary to let the reader know which character is speaking. However, using a variety of tags sparingly can keep the dialogue vibrant and engaging.

Rule Five: Apply Character’s Voice Consistently

Each character should have a distinct voice. This involves considering sentence structure, preferred phrases, word use, and even rhythm.

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Rule Six: Include Relevant Dialogue Only

Dialogue in your story should be impactful and drive the plot forward. Avoid mundane chit-chat unless it significantly contributes to the character development or plot.

Rule Seven: Avoid Long Dialogue Paragraphs

Break up long speeches with appropriate body language, reactions, or interjections. This approach keeps the readers engaged and maintains the rhythm of the dialogue.

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Rule Eight: Minimize Exclamation Points

Exclamation points should be used sparingly in dialogue. Overusing exclamation points can be distracting and can dilute their impact.

Rule Nine: Avoid Excessive Dialect or Slang

While dialect and slang can add depth to your characters, they should be used sparingly so as not to confuse or alienate readers.


Rule Ten: Avoid Detailed Character Descriptions

The dialogue should serve to reveal character traits and personalities. Avoid over-reliance on descriptions; let your characters’ words and actions define them.


Mastering dialogue is key to developing refreshing characters and a captivating plot. By adhering to these rules, you can make sure your dialogue is not just realistic but also holds your readers’ attention. Remember, rules can sometimes be broken, but understanding and mastering them first is vital. Success in dialogue writing is a balance between adhering to rules and knowing when to creatively break them for the betterment of your story.

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