Properly structuring dialogue is not an easy task if you are unfamiliar with the rules. In this post, I’ll give you some basic guidelines to follow that should make crafting dialogue much easier.

1. First and foremost, it is important to remember that all spoken dialogue goes in quotation marks.

 example: “That hat looks hideous on you,” Amy said.

 2. The punctuation at the end of the dialogue blurb goes inside of the quotation marks. Remember that this applies to all ending punctuation (commas, periods, exclamation points, etc.).

 examples: “Stop!”

“I really hate when you do that.”

“Would you like me to tie you up first?”

3. Dialogue tags (Amy said, Thomas asked, Julie warned, etc.) should be used when it is unclear who is speaking, but it is not necessary to keep repeating them when you are writing a long conversation.

 Example: “Is it really you?” Rachel asked.

“Yep,” Adam replied, with a quirked brow. “Don’t you recognize me?”

“You look so different without all your hair!”

 Adam ran his fingers through his shoulder length hair. He smiled, before looking away from Rachel’s questioning gaze. “It was time for a change.”

4. Lastly, it is important to remember to separate each character’s dialogue into different paragraphs to avoid confusion. The example for number three is sufficient for this rule  as well.

The best way to familiarize yourself with these rules is to practice them, AND pay attention to how authors you read structure dialogue. This is one situation when it’s okay to copy your favorite writer.

Its vs. It’s

One of the most common grammatical errors I run across when editing manuscripts is the misuse of its/it’s. They are easy to confuse, and most people do not even realize there is a difference because the its/it’s differentiation is not an issue stressed in most grade schools. But I am here to tell you there is a difference, and it is easy to know when to use the word or the conjunction once you understand what they each mean.

 Its is a adjective. It is used to describe a noun.

Examples:  Johnny knocked his cup onto its side.

                               Alice bought the necklace because she liked its color.

It’s is a contraction. It replaces “it is” in a sentence.

Example: It’s (it is) the yellow one.

                    Bring a blanket, it’s (it is) cold outside.