Proper Dialogue

Submissions Tips, Part I

We’ve gotten a lot of questions about submissions, and how to make sure your work is exactly what we’re looking for. That’s what this series is all about. Every so often we’ll go over a different feature of writing, to give you a better idea of how to edit your work before you send it in for our consideration.

Dialogue is one of the most important things in writing.

It’s not the only important thing, but it’s one of them. It’s the counterpart to exposition, which makes it take up about 40% of the overall importance when it comes to technique. The trouble comes with properly writing and formatting it, which is why I’ve chosen to make this the first in the series on submissions tips.


1. Writing

This is the easiest part to explain, because writing dialogue is exactly like it sounds. In order to make sure your dialogue reads as it should, it should read like speech when it’s read aloud. So when you’re working on your dialogue, make sure you read it out loud. Don’t just write it, read it on the page, and move on. Make sure you spend some real time on it and make it sound like people who are actually talking to one another.

Also, note that this means some characters will not respond properly or well to questions or remarks. A lot of us speak very randomly, but you’ll want to cut down on the random in your writing, if only to make things less confusing for you.

2. Formatting

This is the tricky part, because there are so many different opinions on how dialogue should be formatted, so here I’m going to show you how it needs to be done, how we do it here at RAD Writing, and what I've come to know as proper. 


Properly formatted statements:

“I need to go to the store,” I said.

“I just want to go home.” She sighed.

Improperly formatted statement:

“I need to go to the store.” He said.

“I just want to go home,” she sighed.


Notice the problem with the second ones? Properly formatted dialogue ends with a comma when it’s a statement and is followed by a dialogue tag (i.e. he/she said), and with a period when it does not (e.g. She sighed, which is not a method of speaking). And don't worry, questions are very similar and just as easy. 


Properly formatted question:

“How are you?” he asked.

Improperly formatted question:

“How are you?” He demanded.


See? It works the same way. Tags are lowercase, descriptions are capitalized. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a very simple thing to do. Don’t worry if it takes you a while. I spent almost a year just trying to master what required a dialogue tag and what didn’t.

I hope this gave you some good pointers, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact us. One of our editors will be more than happy to explain things further or give you some writing advice, to get you going or help get you onto your feet.


Senior Editor