Grammar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Formatting Dialogue

Quick Instructions:

Look at each paragraph. If nobody if speaking in that paragraph, you can ignore it.

However, if anyone is speaking in that paragraph, then it is a dialogue paragraph, and you need to study it closely to see if it is formatted properly.

The basic rule is this: Each dialogue paragraph should be devoted to one—and only one—person. In other words: "One person per paragraph." Therefore:

Only if none of those things is true—that is, only if the author has faithfully followed the "one person per paragraph" rule—then the answer is A) Yes, this dialogue is formatted correctly.

Longer Explanation:

Start a new paragraph every time you change speakers. If the speaker performs actions linked to the dialogue, keep everything in the same paragraph. Why? Readers easily lose track of which character is speaking. A new paragraph helps readers by signalling a change.

Study the following dialogue. Notice how it flows down the page like a ping-pong match between two people. Each time someone else hits the ball, the author starts a new paragraph.

Dialogue Notes
"Did he hit you?" Deanna asked, looking at the cut and bruises on Laura’s face. This is a Deanna paragraph. Only Deanna is talking or thinking or feeling or acting.
   
"No. I hurt myself," Laura replied. Her brain scrambled to invent a story. "I, umm . . . fell." This is a Laura paragraph. Only Laura is talking or thinking or feeling or acting.
   
"That bastard!" This is a Deanna paragraph. The new paragraph has signalled a new speaker, so the reader can tell that it must be Deanna speaking, even without any dialogue tags.
   
"No. You don’t understand. It was my fault." This is a Laura paragraph. Only Laura is talking or thinking or feeling or acting.
   
Deanna pointed her finger at Laura. "Battered women always say that." She shook her head. "Please come with me. I don’t think you should be here when he comes back." This is a Deanna paragraph. Only Deanna is talking or thinking or feeling or acting.