How to write Dialogue in an Essay: Usage, Formatting and Punctuation Rules


Dialogue is stated as a literary skill that writers exert to portray a conversation between two or more individuals. Dialogue is a tool that is engaged in all categories of fiction like movie, plays, and books and even in essays. Dialogue is basically invented to make a more visual, dramatic effect. Quotation marks are used with quoting from source as well as to mark dialogue in an essay but the conventions around the two changes. However, you may complicate dialogue with direct quotes. It is important to separate the difference if you want to know how to write dialogue in an essay.

  • Direct quotes are employed to back the statement or an argument of the writer. When you utilize them, you must compose them exactly letter-for-letter.
  • Dialogues are used merely as a part of the story as a whole, just to add an attractive and original touch.

When to use Dialogue
It is essential to remember that when it comes to essay writing, a dialogue can only actually develop in one type of essay i.e. the narrative essay. A narrative essay is different from most kinds of essay writing. Other types of essays often seek to make a statement about something. For example, an argumentative essay makes a claim that one point of view is right. And an expository essay will state about how a model type or objective works. A narrative essay doesn’t make any demands like this. It is basically an essay that is used to relate stories and experience to the reader. These understandings are made up of discussions the writer has had with other individuals. Providing conversations you had with friends as dialogue in an argumentative essay or expository essay wouldn’t do much to support your argument and would damage your standing. It is preferable to use direct quotes from the source – even if it is spoken material. Direct quotes will be observed as the conventional norm as these types of essay expect the writer to be objective and scientific in their discussion.

Why use Dialogue
Narrative essays use dialogue as a trick, something similar to written fiction. They increase gravity, tightness and character growth to nonfiction writing. It also assists to move the story ahead. As it is conveyed speech, you would be not likely to recollect all the particulars. Therefore you will have to restore them from memory.  Make sure that you use the words, tones, and emotions that convey the exact manner. Readers will believe in a genuine dialogue that expresses the circumstances precisely. It is worth noting that if you use dialogue as a part of your argument or claim, then you are using direct quotes.

Dialogue essays should be used when the essay you are writing is a narrative essay. This is generally because the main objective of narrative essay is to tell a story. Your words should transform into images for the readers as they advance through your essay. Dialogue can intensify this influence by adding more gravity and involvement. Without a single dialogue, your essay will sound very boring and depressive. However, the dialogue in essays is not a magic key that one can apply in any kinds of essay. If you are working on an argumentative essay, use direct quotes in its place.

How to format Dialogue
This section will examine the accurate treatment of the quotation marks, and where to use other punctuation marks. It will establish accurate formatting rules to use when introducing your dialogue into a narrative essay.

Quotations Marks
The three key rules that frame the use of quotation marks:

  1. Double quotation marks are used to signify that a person is using speech.

Example: – When I was young, my mother warned me, “Look before you leap.”

  1. Single quotation marks are used to mark quotes in quotes.

Example: – “I remember read Oscar Wilde’s quote ‘I can resist everything except temptation’ and feeling so inspired,” the creative writer coach said.

  1. When dialogue covers across numerous paragraphs, use quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph but only use the closing quotation mark when the speech ends.

Example: – Harry nodded and said, “Yes I think you’re right. If we place the carpet before painting the ceiling, we’ll need additional dust sheets. But if we do the ceiling before laying the new carpet it should be fine.”


The rules regarding the placement of punctuation when using dialogue are:

  1. If the quote is at the end of a sentence, always put the full stop inside the quotation marks.

Incorrect: – The cashier said, “This is your change”.

Correct: – The cashier said, “This is your change.”

  1. Question marks and exclamation should be placed inside the quotation mark if they apply to the person’s speech.

Incorrect: – The boy screamed, “Watch out the sky is falling”!

Correct: – The boy screamed, “Watch out the sky is falling!”

  1. When the quote is inserted in a longer sentence that is a question or exclamation, the punctuation should be positioned outside the speech marks.

Incorrect: -How did you feel when the father said, “He had been shot?”

Correct: – How did you feel when the father said, “He had been shot”?

  1. If a speech tags fall before the quote use a comma before the quotation marks to separate them.

Incorrect: – My sister said “I’m telling mom that you stole the money.”

Correct: – My sister said, “I’m telling mom that you stole the money.”

  1. If the speech tag comes after the quotation marks, then the comma should be placed in the speech marks

Incorrect: – “Just be back in time for dinner” My father warned me before I went to swim.

Correct: – “Just be back in time for dinner,” My father warned me before I went to swim.

  1. When a sentence is interrupted with a speech tag, a comma should be placed after the first segment of speech and at the end of the speech tag.

Incorrect: – “Yes” Joe said wrinkling his nose in disgust “That’s just weird.”

Correct: – “Yes,” Joe said wrinkling his nose in disgust, “That’s just weird.”


It is therefore necessary to learn how to use quotation marks and punctuation appropriately as these rules act as a convention between reader and writer.


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