Dialogue rules (just cuz sometimes you need a review)

Dialogue rules in writing

I’ve seen a lotta dialogue errors as I’ve been critiquing in scribophile. I think most people know them implicitly, but it doesn’t hurt to lay them out there. Sooooooo…..

here it goes!

Dialogue that precedes or follows a beat (a character action) is attributed to that writer. Example

“I hate you!” Donald threw a chair.

Mary folded her arms. “So why did you marry me?”

[so far it’s clear]

Donald rushed toward Mary. She lifted her hands. “Okay!”

[not clear because there’s two beats from two different people.]


Dialogue in its own paragraph should have a tag, unless a pattern has been established. Example

“It appears it shall rain today,” Gruff said.

“Aye, it shall,” said Tom.

“You suppose we’ll see lightning?”


“How’s that wife of yours?”

[it’s okay to drop the tags because the pattern has been established. Now for a bad example.]

Timothy gazed at the horizon. Malory approached, taking a seat next to him.

“Nice night.”

The sun drooped over the mountains….

[confusing because it could have been Timothy or Malory].


Hope this helps!

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