Common Grammar Pitfalls of New Writers On Dialogue  

The Writing Jar — Common Grammar Pitfalls of New Writers On Dialogue  

Are you new to writing? Have you just picked up that pen and started pouring your heart and soul to the page? If yes, then congratulations and welcome to the creative craft. Your journey will be a long and fruitful one with many triumphs and struggles ahead. Often times for new writers, it may feel like an uphill battle to self-improvement. But, here at the AUDERTIST team, we know exactly how all new writers feel. So, in effort to loosen your burdens and help you continue to strive for artistic success, here’s a short little compilation of the common errors new writers often make a little tumble on, concerning dialogue.  

Be sure to watch out these creepy crawlers, or they’ll come looking for you! 

Dialogue 

When writing dialogue, many writers have tendency to ignore all grammar rules and just regurgitate characters speaking onto the page. In essence, a lot of writers just start writing with their own forms of dialogue that make it hard for readers to follow and keep up. For example, I one read a dialogue on an online novel that was written a little like this: 

‘I don’t know Diva. I don’t have the answers.’ 

‘Well, somebody has to have them.’  

Diva walked to the corner of the room, thinking, ‘he’s lying to me. I know he knows something.’  

You’ll notice that is almost impossible to tell who is speaking, why they are speaking, and what the heck is going on in a scene like that. You can’t tell the difference between the actual dialogue and what’s a character thought. In other words, it’s a mortal writing sin! (cue dramatic music). Readers would shut your book so fast; they wouldn’t even have time to blink!  
 
As a writer, you need readers—in fact, you should want readers. So, it’s important that you know how to write dialogue because dialogue will comprise a majority of you book.  
 
When writing dialogue in English or just writing dialogue in general, the dialogue will always be formatted in this general form: 

Double Quotations “” + Dialogue (what is being said) + Punctuation (periods, commas, question marks, etc.) + Speaker Tag (aka he said, she said, they said, etc.)  

Now, that’s a word salad, so here’s what that looks like in plain words: 

Example: 

“Gettyra, help me! I think the demon is trapped in this book!” Hex shouted. 

Gettyra laughed, staring at Hex. She parted her lips with a smirk. “Demon inside of a book? No, way, you’re absolutely kidding me!” she said with a snicker as she shook her head in fake disbelief. 

“Gettyra! I said help me!” His hands were starting to burn with a tingling sensation as he held the cursed book. “Your sarcasm is not admirable or needed in life-or-death situations!” 

Notice the formatting of each of these dialogues are different. Dialogue tags can be found in three different places: before, after, or in the middle of dialogue.  
 
Depending on where the dialogue tags are, you use different punctuation and capitalization. A general rule of thumb for this is: 

When dialogue tags are before the dialogue it looks like this: 

Gettyra asked, “Do all of you humans have to be whiny and spineless?” 

Or 

Gettyra sighed. “Do all of you humans have to be whiny and spineless.” 

Deep breakdown for Before Dialogue Tags: 

  • Use a comma after the dialogue tag. 
  • If the dialogue is the beginning of a sentence, capitalize the first letter. 
  • End the dialogue with the appropriate punctuation (period, exclamation point, or question mark), but keep it INSIDE the quotation marks. 
  • Notice the dialogue consists of open and closed dialogue tags, “…..” The dialouge tags are followed by what’s known as an action clause. There are different ways dialogue tags should be formatted grammatically depending on the type of sentence. 

When dialogue tags are used after the dialogue it looks a little like this: 

“Do you always have to act like I’m-a-demon-from-hell-who-thinks-humans-are-stupid-puny-creatures? Can you pick like just one designated time to be like that?” Hex asked. 

or 

“Do you always have to act like I’m-a-demon-from-hell-who-thinks-humans-are-stupid-puny-creatures? Can you pick like just one designated time to be like that?” asked Hex. 

Deep breakdown for After Dialogue Tags: 

  • Punctuation still goes INSIDE quotation marks. 
  • Unless the dialogue tag begins with a proper noun, it is not capitalized. 
  • End the dialogue tag with appropriate punctuation. 

And finally, when dialogue tags are used in the middle of dialogue, it looks like this: 

“I don’t hate humans, no,” she explained, “I just think I’m better than a creature made only a couple thousand eons ago. Or, in plain words that your feeble mortal mind can understand, I was here first, you second. By extension, you are the lesser derivative.” 

Deep breakdown for In the Middle Dialogue Tags: 

  • A comma is used before the dialogue tag and goes INSIDE quotation marks. 
  • Unless the dialogue tag begins with a proper noun, it is not capitalized. 
  • A comma is used after the dialogue tag, OUTSIDE of quotation marks, to reintroduce the dialogue. 
  • End the dialogue with the appropriate punctuation (period, exclamation point, or question mark), but keep it INSIDE the quotation marks. 

Dear writers, the AUDERTIST team hopes that some of these notes and tips helps. Be sure to keep on our blog for more articles like this.  

—AUDERTIST TEAM.  

Resources: 

All About Dialogue Tags – Self Publishing School (self-publishingschool.com) 

Dialogue Tags: What Are They and How Do We Use Them? (thewritepractice.com) 

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cheshir
21 days ago

Dialogue seems to be tricky for a lot of writers who grew up watching content as opposed to reading it. In fact, it’s not a bad thing to mimic TV dialogue, but there’s a reason why TV scripts are written the way they are: they play to the camera as a visual experience for a watcher to enjoy. This kind of formatting does not always feel natural when in writing, and so writers who write like cinematic scenes of dialogue often write things that feel off.
This article talks about the technical basics of writing dialogue that such writers may not be aware of. It is indeed useful and should be more expounded on by similar articles, given the changing consumption of media today.

Melancholy Ennui
Editor
21 days ago

I really liked the dialogue bit between the article included. The demon interaction was funny as hell!

Melancholy Ennui
Editor
21 days ago

This article was crazy helpful!