Writing Dialogue in an Essay: Punctuation Rules & Formatting

Writing a good essay requires a student to have creative skills to spice up the essay and make it interesting to the reader. Besides, tutors evaluate the creative skills a student has applied while writing an essay, and this can give you a better grade than you anticipated.

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There are varied ways to spice up your paper, and using dialogue in essay is one of the best ways to make your paper interesting to read. However, you must know the techniques and formatting guidelines required for how to apply dialogue in an essay. Keep reading to discover useful insights and approaches you should take when using dialogue in an academic paper.

Understanding dialogue

Dialogue is simply a conversation, either in written or spoken format, between two or more people. You will see this writing style in most written novels, games, or even movies.

In an academic essay, using dialogue helps gather the reader’s interest. However, this style can only apply to a narrative essay, considering that there are many types of essays.

Should you opt to bring out a narrative essay with dialogue, make sure the concept is real and clear, and use appropriate formatting to give your dialogue a good flow.

Types of dialogues

There are two basic types of dialogue, as described below:

  • Inner dialogues

These are thoughts characters say or think about themselves

  • Outer dialogues

This is the common form of dialogue, and it involves several characters in the context.

How to format dialogue in an essay

Presenting a dialogue in an essay requires the student to understand a set of guidelines to apply and bring out an informative dialogue to meet the desired objective. The following basics will guide you on how to add dialogue in an essay, making the essay flow swiftly.

Using quotation marks and capitalization

  • Make sure you add double-direct speech quotation marks (opening and closing).
  • For each character’s words, begin a new paragraph with each line indented.
  • Apply single quotation marks when adding direct speech within the double quotes.
  • Always capitalize every first word of a direct speech.
  • Avoid capitalizing the continuation of the quote in one sentence.


As a student, you must know how to use dialogue in an essay as far as punctuation is concerned. Therefore, make sure you master the following punctuation basics in a dialogue presented in an essay.

  • Use comma inside the quotation marks when the quoted speech precedes a dialog tag.
  • Include a comma after the dialogue tags preceding the direct speech.
  • Include a colon when introducing a direct speech that describes a finished context.
  • Divide the quoted speech into paragraphs when too big using quotation marks appropriately.
  • Avoid adding more punctuation marks once you input closing quotation marks when the speech ends with an ellipsis.
  • When introducing an indirect quote, do not use double or single quotes.

How to cite dialogue

In every essay paper, a student must cite all the sources they have used throughout the paper, be it a paraphrase, a dialogue, or a quote. When formatting a dialogue in an essay, you can use the common styles, including MLA, APA, or Chicago.

MLA Style

Take note of the following when citing your dialogue in MLA style

  • Name the author and respective page number when adding a direct quote.
  • Use brackets when adding unrelated words in a quotation
  • Use commas to separate speech tags in short quotations
  • Use an ellipsis in the case of a long quotation having irrelevant information
  • Add quotation marks when starting a paragraph
  • Avoid single or double quotation marks when adding indirect quotes.

APA Style

Under APA style, use the following guidelines:

  • Include the quote and dialogue tags when the character’s quote is short
  • For longer quotes, start with the source and the author, then a colon before quoting for a new paragraph.
  • Be sure to mention the page where the quote is from in brackets.

Note: when using indirect quotes in APA, do not use quotation marks because the dialog tags describe the character’s part.

How to write a conversation in an essay: pro tips

1. Review a dialogue in essay example

Do not get stuck when in the middle of using dialogue in your essay. There are many professional samples you can easily relate to. Therefore, check online and school resources to get an idea of how to add dialogue in an essay.

2. Read more dialogue articles

You will get many blogs and articles describing the whole process of using dialogue in essays. Be sure to always read such materials to gain useful insights.


Have you tried using dialogue in your narrative essay? I hope this guide has given you useful insights to improve your narrative essay.

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