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How to Write a Dialogue in an Essay

The knowledge about how to cite source materials in an essay is one of the key topics among students since it matters a lot in academic writing tasks. They insert trusted source data into essays to prove their arguments, expand them, or even use to deny some opposing thoughts and test their relevance. 


Write essay dialogue


The skill of citing is critically important, so professors naturally pound the rules about quotation marks and their usage into the minds of their students. As a result, they know when it is required to quote a reference source and why they should do that.

Still, the use of dialogues in an essay is a separate sort of trouble. Without proper practice, students make many mistakes when writing that, especially punctuation ones. Moreover, they might even not be aware of the differences between a quote and a dialogue.

Why does it happen that way? The main reason is the nature of most academic disciplines and tasks. They concentrate on claim-based essay writing only, and that kind of texts is not about the use of dialogues.

In this article, professional writers will show the reasons for the dialogue's effectiveness when used in a narrative essay. 

An Essay Dialogue: Definition

A dialogue is a technique in literature which text authors use in order to transmit a conversation happening between two and more persons. Any kind of fiction (theatre plays, novels, movies, etc.) can communicate messages to the reader using dialogues. Academic writing tasks, which are essays, can use them, too.

Still, a student should be careful and distinguish a quote and a dialogue:

  • A quote (quotation) is the direct referral citing from a particular informational source. It can be checked through citations easily.
  • Dialogue is mostly used to deliver more dramatic, visual experience and effects.

Both dialogues and source quoting go to the text with the use of quotation marks. Still, rules of punctuation and grammar are different between the two cases.

The table below displays the main features of dialogues and quotes. Memorize them, and you won’t be confused.



A direct conversation with two and more participants

A direct copy of the source text (word by word)

A story element (novel, film, performance)

A proof for arguments, evidence, etc.

An instrument for writers


Academic writers use it to estimate counter-claims

The use of a dialogue shaped as a direct quote is one of the serious errors you can make when you write essays. The nature of that error is pure: most students use someone else's speech as a quote when creating claim-based papers. It's just a habit. So, they might fail to understand the rules and reasons to write dialogue in an essay.

When Should You Write a Dialogue in an Essay?

As we mentioned before, conversations between characters play considerable roles in many artworks like films, novels, or plays. When it comes to essay writing, the only type really getting benefits from the use of dialogues is the narrative essay. 

Narrative academic texts are not like the most essays. Such works as argumentative, comparative, persuasive, and other essays suppose students to claim a particular viewpoint and then prove it is right (or wrong). At the same time, expository essays explain how some idea or concept works.

That does not work for a narrative essay. It does not make any claim. Students should use that type of academic papers to show the reader a personal story or experience. Talks that the author had with the others are also parts of his or her experience.

In an argumentative essay, a friendly conversation you had presented as an abstract conversation won’t be a credible backup for your arguments. In that case, direct quotations will work better, even when the source is a recorded speech. 

Reasons to Write a Dialogue in an Essay

In a narrative essay, a dialogue is an instrument to drive a story, pretty similar to that of fictional books. With it, you can make the story deeper, stronger, and tenser. Moreover, it is a thread to show the character’s internal development and changes your hero passes through.

Don’t try to recreate the past conversation with a 100% precision. Most probably, you won’t remember every detail. So, the point is to show the situation as correctly as possible, but the citing rules are not that strict here. It is enough to let the readers feel the realism of the dialogue in the context of the situation described in an essay.

Format a Dialogue in an Essay Correctly

In this part, we mention the formatting rules to apply when you want to write dialogue in an essay. It is based on the US grammar rules.

Quotation Marks

When it comes to the use of quotation marks, you should memorize three basic rules:

  • Double quotation (“) serves to mark the speech that is used by a person.
  • Single quotation (‘) exists to distinguish quotes inside other ones.
  • When you need to describe a dialogue speech occupying some consequent paragraphs of your essay, use the opening mark (") as every next paragraph begins, and use a closing mark (") exclusively at the very end of the replica.


These are the most critical rules of dialogue punctuation:

  • The full stop goes inside the quote if the closing mark stands at the end of the sentence.
  • When applied to someone’s speech, both exclamation and question marks go inside the quotes.
  • Oppositely, if you only embed the quote in a broader sentence that is an exclamation or question, put punctuation signs outside the marks.
  • Separate the speech tags from character phrases with a comma before the quotes, in case they appear.
  • The comma goes in the speech mark in case the tag comes after the quote.
  • If you decided to interrupt a sentence and inserted a speech tag, place a comma after the first speech part and after the tag.

The knowledge about the correct punctuation and quotes in dialogues is critical for students. Punctuation rules help authors and readers understand each other better. If you break them, your readers are more likely to be confused and messed up by your essay. As a result, you’ll fail to deliver the message as intended.

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