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Dialogue Rules for Kids

by Susan Rickey, studioD

Dialogue in a story helps the characters come alive. Hearing the words from the characters through dialogue is a way to keep readers interested and more involved in a story's plot. The punctuation rules for writing dialogue are learned by children so they can add the voice of the characters they create into their stories.

General Rules

Dialogue, or the spoken word of characters, is enclosed in quotation marks. The stranger said, "Hello, my name is the Big Bad Wolf." A quotation mark appears before the first word spoken and after the last spoken word. If the dialogue is at the end of a sentence, the quotation marks go after the punctuation mark at the end of the sentence. If the dialogue is followed by a tag explaining who said the words (e.g., she said, he remarked, Dad shouted) place a comma after the last word of the dialogue and before the quotation marks. "I'm happy to meet you," said the girl. Always capitalize the first word of dialogue.

Dialogue with a Pause

Dialogue is also written with a tag explaining who is saying the words between the spoken words. "I'm just going through the woods, " she explained, "to visit my grandmother." Include quotation marks around all of the spoken words, but not the tag designating the speaker. A comma is enclosed in the first set of words. A comma also pauses the reader after the speaker is noted. Another set of quotation marks around the last part of the words with ending punctuation within the quotation marks will finish the dialogue.

New Speaker, New Paragraph

Each time a new speaker begins speaking, a new paragraph begins. Each new paragraph is indented. Look in a fiction book and notice how many new paragraphs are on a page because of the dialogue and speakers changing.

Spice it Up

The word "said" when tagging the speaker becomes stale if overused. Use synonyms for said when identifying the speaker. Words such as "shouted," "cried," "demanded," "pleaded" and "requested" spice up the writing and can convey more meaning than "said." Use words in dialogue that the speaker might say. A teenager uses different words than a teacher. Choose words in the dialogue fitting to the character to make the character more real for the reader.

About the Author

Susan Rickey started writing in 1994 with a technology feature article for the "Pioneer Press." She was the writer of the Klamath Forest Alliance newsletter, an environmental organization. Rickey obtained her teaching credential from California State University and acquired her Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas.

Photo Credits

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