Conversation in Writing!
Something to keep in mind when writing dialogue is to use a new paragraph each time the speaker changes. Dialogue is basically writing down a conversation.
A lot of students just keep writing without any paragraphs at all!
Some students do use paragraphs but more in the way one should for non-fiction writing.
Dialogue is usually used for fiction, and you will end up with many more short paragraphs than you would when writing academic papers.
In fact, when using dialogue, a lot of grammar rules go out the window (but not all).
Not only will you have many short paragraphs, but some of your sentences might actually be sentence fragments or run-on sentences or incorrect in other ways.
The reason is that people do not talk in formal academic sentences. Conversation tends to be a rapid give and take.
Sometimes the meaning lies between the two (or more) speakers, rather than relying on just one speaker.
Having said this, you should follow most of the rules when not writing dialogue. (Note – not all authors do; however, it is best to learn and use the rules and conventions until you are adept enough to know when and how to break them - aside for writing conversation.)
Here is a brief example of the quick switches between paragraphs in dialogue.
“I don’t think we should go in there!” Jordan whispered.
“Why not. It looks very interesting to me,” Trevor sneered, taunting his friend. He had a habit of doing this to his closest friends.
“It looks interesting to me, too – as in we’ll never come back out.” Jordan couldn’t see Trevor very well in the oncoming darkness, but he knew what was coming.
“Chicken.” Trevor whispered, then too loudly, “Chicken!”
“Cluck, cluck. I’d rather be a live chicken…”
“Then a dead duck. Ha ha, very funny.”
You can see that the paragraphs shift very quickly in this conversation. In just a small part of a page, there are six paragraphs so far. Of course, sometimes characters will have much longer speeches. In that case, you might have paragraphs within their part of the conversation.
This blog is primarily concerned with using paragraphs when writing dialogue or conversation, but you can see how to place punctuation as well.
You will need quotation marks around what each speaker says – and only around what the speaker says!
If the speaker has many lines without interruption, then you only need a quotation mark at the beginning and end of his or her sentences. In other words, you should not place quotation marks within the same speech.
Notice how the punctuation marks such at the exclamation marks, comma, and periods go inside the quotation marks.
Also, note that when someone begins to speak, you need a capital letter on his or her spoken words even though this might come in the middle of a sentence:
Trevor stood up bravely and said, “Just take a nap here then. I’m going in with or without you.”
You can see that I used a lot of contractions in the conversation above because most people use them when talking. In academic English writing, you would normally avoid most contractions, slang, and shortcuts that are used in everyday conversation.
The following quotation has a double negative, slang, and a sentence fragment.
“You aren’t never going to make me read that book, man. Not happening.”
This kind of sentence is totally unacceptable in your essays or formal writing, but it might work perfectly in a short story or novel, particularly if the language fits the character’s personality and educational level.
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