Dialogue Dos and Don’ts

Dialogue Dos and Don'ts


Speaking to others and conveying our emotions through our actions and speech is something we do every day, but it may be challenging to bring across in your writing – this applies to novice and seasoned writers. I’ve researched and collated the basics you need to know before including dialogue in your novel.

The purpose of dialogue is to:

  • Reveal character
  • Show the character’s mood and desires
  • Advance the plot
  • Build suspense
  • Make the characters relatable to your reader


  • Create conflict with your dialogue
  • Give your characters alternate motives or conflicting opinions to increase the hostility and keep your reader engaged
  • Keep everyday conversation between your characters to a minimum
  • Write your dialogue with an end goal in mind
  • Mix up the length of dialogue between characters to make it interesting for your reader
  • Describe what the characters are doing or thinking between snippets of dialogue
  • Read your dialogue aloud multiple times and edit where necessary
  • Make your dialogue suit your character, their circumstances and who they are addressing at the time
  • Show what your character wants to gain from the conversation
  • Include narratives between the dialogue to give the conversation more meaning
  • Remember that what isn’t said is as important as what is


  • Copy real life conversation by rambling or using “um” and “er”,but make the reader feel like the conversation between your reader is real
  • Waffle too much – dialogue should convey large amounts of information concisely
  • Overuse “said”
  • Always use perfect grammar and complete sentences
  • Make your dialogue a simple back and forth between characters
  • Let one character talk for too long
  • Make the dialogue too formal
  • Mention your character’s names too often

Punctuation Rules to Remember:

  1. Dialogue should begin on a new line for each new speaker.
  2. Have double or single quotation marks around the words (we use UK double marks in South Africa, but US single lines are acceptable as long as you commit to one or the other)
  3. All punctuation falls inside the quotation marks
  4. End with a comma if you are adding a dialogue tag
  5. End with a full stop if you are adding an action
  6. Use ellipses to show when the character’s words are trailing off
  7. Use a dash if your character is interrupted or forgets what they want to say

Dialogue Tags:

“She said” or “he yelled” are examples of dialogue tags. Their main purpose is to show the reader who is speaking.

They are a functional part of writing and the use of simple verbs (said, asked, shouted, whispered, mumbled) are preferred as they don’t inhibit the dialogue.

Avoid using adverbs in your dialogue and show your reader how your character is feeling instead.

Also remember to use dialogue tags as sparingly as possible.

Questions to ask yourself when writing dialogue:

  1. Will the story make sense without the dialogue?
  2. Does the dialogue increase the tension and create a sense of expectation for your reader?
  3. Does the dialogue change your character’s current situation?
  4. Does it reveal your character’s desires?
  5. Does it encourage or discourage the character in any way?

Those are my tips for creating successful dialogue that your readers will love. I wish you all the best on your writing journey. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow as we unpack the exposition of a story and why it’s important.

Did you enjoy this post? Are there any dos or don’ts you would like to add? Let me know by commenting below!


Love and Blessings,

Lindsay Sign Off New


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15 thoughts on “Dialogue Dos and Don’ts

  1. The only one I would challenge is speaks my in perfect sentences. We rarely do as people. I know it looks better on the page, but it does add realism at times. Apart from that little detail, this is sound to me

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I meant that we shouldn’t write in complete sentences all the time. Sorry about that. The wheels must have fallen off somewhere between midnight and the 20th cup of coffee. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s always the safari, as you can tell from most of my challenge posts. I love Cape Town though. And Saffas think I have a sexy accent lol

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Lol the accent is a bit difficult to get around with in Nairobi, because a lot of people struggle to understand me. I’ve seen your safari posts. It seems like you’ve seen more of SA than I have. All the best with your writing and your travels.

        Liked by 1 person

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