Look Who's Talking

Basic dialog skills for writing prose

What is going on?

Whenever you are a piece of prose, it will more often than not be about one or more people. As a general consensus, people speak; and sometimes it can be tricky converting speech patterns to text, as your Google 'Talk-to-Text' program will tell you.

What do I do?

Let's use a simple statement to help.


"I will be late for dinner," Mike said


Look for:

punctuation placement, character + verb placement


As you can see 'I will be late for dinner' is inside of the quotation marks, it is the text being spoken by our character, Mike. We know this because 'Mike said.' is at the end of our sentence, though it could also be put at the beginning of the sentence. This is called a dialog tag.


Mike said, "I will be late for dinner."


But now that we changed the order, several other things changed. Previously the comma was after 'dinner' and now its after 'said.' This changed because previously the quote wasn't at the end on the sentence; even though it was the end of the quote.


Though what if you have more than one speaker?


"I will be late for dinner," said Mike.

"Ok, I'll tell Mom." replied Mark.


For each time the speaker changes at the end of their quote, dialog tag, and any writing accompanying it; you should start a new paragraph, to be easier to read. Though after all of your characters are introduced into the story by the dialog tag, you don't need to use them anymore for the sake of not sounding repetitive.