What are the 7 Rules of Writing Dialogue

Writing dialogue that resonates with readers and breathes life into characters is an art form that every writer aspires to master. Dialogue is more than just words exchanged between characters; it's a tool for storytelling, character development, and creating tension and resolution. However, crafting dialogue that feels authentic and purposeful can often be a challenge. To help demystify this aspect of writing, we've compiled a list of seven crucial rules for writing dialogue. Whether you're penning a novel, screenplay, or short story, these guidelines will ensure your dialogue adds depth to your narrative and connects with your audience on a deeper level.

Be Concise

Conciseness in dialogue is about stripping away the unnecessary, allowing the essential words to carry weight and meaning. The goal is to keep dialogue sharp, clear, and impactful without sacrificing the personality of the characters or the flow of conversation. This rule encourages writers to think critically about each line of dialogue, ensuring that it serves a purpose, whether it's advancing the plot, revealing character traits, or enhancing the mood.


  • Before: "I was thinking, you know, maybe, if you're not too busy this weekend, we could possibly think about going to see a movie or something, if you're interested."

    After: "Want to see a movie this weekend?"

    The revised dialogue cuts to the chase, making the invitation clear and direct.

  • Before: "I really don't think that I can manage to come to terms with the fact that you're leaving. It's quite hard for me to imagine not seeing you around."

    After: "I can't believe you're leaving. I'll miss seeing you."

    This example removes the fluff, leaving the emotional core of the statement intact.

Avoid Exposition Dumps

Exposition dumps occur when writers use characters' dialogue to unload large amounts of background information or details all at once. This approach can feel forced and unnatural, pulling readers out of the story. Instead, aim to weave exposition seamlessly into the narrative, revealing information gradually through actions, dialogue, and subtle hints.


  • Before: "As you know, we've been at war with the Eastern realms for over a decade now, ever since the crown prince was assassinated on the eve of the treaty signing, leading to the collapse of the alliance and the start of the ongoing conflict."

    After: "The prince's assassination shattered the peace. Ten years, and the war with the East still bleeds us dry."

    The revised dialogue conveys the same background but in a way that feels more natural and in-the-moment.

  • Before: "I graduated top of my class from the academy, the youngest to do so in decades, and was immediately recruited by the agency, where I've been leading missions across the globe for the past five years."

    After: "Ever since the academy, I've been chasing shadows around the world."

    This simplification hints at the character's accomplishments and current role without overwhelming the reader with details.

Use Contractions and Informal Language

Contractions and informal language make dialogue sound more natural and realistic, as they reflect the way people actually speak in everyday conversations. This approach helps characters come alive on the page, making their interactions more relatable and engaging for readers. While formal language has its place, especially in specific settings or characters, a more casual tone is often key to authentic dialogue.


  • Before: "I do not know what you are talking about. I have not seen anything peculiar."

    After: "I don't know what you're talking about. Haven't seen anything weird."

    This revision introduces contractions and simplifies the language, making the dialogue sound more like a real conversation.

  • Before: "It is imperative that we proceed with caution. The situation is extremely volatile."

    After: "We gotta be careful. It's super risky right now."

    Here, the formal tone is replaced with contractions and informal phrases, adding urgency and a sense of immediacy to the dialogue.

Vary Speech Patterns

Varying speech patterns among characters is crucial for creating distinct voices and personalities. This variation can be achieved through differences in vocabulary, rhythm, and the use of dialects or slang. By giving each character a unique way of speaking, writers can enhance the realism of their narrative and make it easier for readers to distinguish between characters without constantly needing to tag who is speaking.


  • Before: "I will meet you at the old bridge at dawn. Make sure you are not followed."

    After (Character A): "See ya at the old bridge come sunrise. Make sure no one's tailin' you."

    After (Character B): "I shall await you by the ancient bridge as the day begins. Ensure you are not pursued."

    These revisions showcase how different characters can express the same idea in their own unique ways, influenced by their backgrounds and personalities.

  • Before: "I think it's going to rain today. We should bring an umbrella."

    After (Character A): "Looks like rain. Grab an umbrella, yeah?"

    After (Character B): "The heavens appear troubled today. Perhaps we ought to carry an umbrella."

    Here, the same observation is made in two distinct styles, reflecting the characters' differing views and speech habits.

Listen to How People Speak

One of the most effective ways to write realistic dialogue is to observe and listen to real conversations. Paying attention to how people speak in various contexts reveals the nuances of spoken language, including pacing, interruptions, and the natural ebb and flow of dialogue. Incorporating these elements into your writing can significantly enhance the authenticity of your characters' interactions.


  • Observation: In a café, two friends quickly switch topics, overlap their sentences, and use non-verbal sounds like laughter and sighs.

    Dialogue Example: "So, he said—no, listen—ha! He said he'd never... Oh, look at that dog! Anyway, he'd never seen anything like it."

    This dialogue captures the informal, dynamic nature of real conversation, including topic shifts and interruptions.

  • Observation: During a tense meeting, participants speak in short, clipped sentences, often pausing or speaking over each other.

    Dialogue Example: "But—""No, I...""Let me finish. We need...""That won't work."

    This example reflects the tension and conflict through sentence structure and pacing, mimicking actual speech patterns in similar situations.

Read Aloud

Reading your dialogue aloud is a powerful technique for identifying awkward phrasing, pacing issues, or unnatural speech patterns that might not be obvious on the page. This practice helps writers fine-tune their dialogue, ensuring it flows smoothly and authentically. Beyond personal reading, leveraging software solutions can provide a different perspective, allowing you to hear your characters' voices through another medium.

Several software options are available to assist writers in this process, offering a range of voices and languages to suit diverse characters and stories. These tools can be especially helpful for identifying nuances in dialogue that may require adjustment.

Suggested Software Solutions

  • NaturalReader: A user-friendly text-to-speech tool that offers a variety of natural-sounding voices.
  • Microsoft Word Read Aloud: Integrated into Microsoft Word, this feature allows you to hear your text read back to you, helping identify areas for improvement.
  • Google Text-to-Speech: This tool provides high-quality voice output for reading text aloud, available on most Android devices.
  • Apple's Speak Screen: For iOS users, Speak Screen can read aloud the text on the screen, including dialogue from your manuscript.

Utilizing these tools can enhance the editing process, making it easier to catch and correct dialogue issues before your manuscript reaches its final stages.

Context Is Key

Ensuring that dialogue fits the situation, setting, and emotional states of the characters is crucial for creating believable and engaging conversations. Dialogue that is out of context can disrupt the narrative flow and diminish the authenticity of the characters. Writers must consider the circumstances surrounding a conversation, including the characters' relationships, their current emotional states, and the setting, to craft dialogue that truly resonates.

Contextual dialogue enhances the narrative by adding depth to the characters and their interactions. It ensures that each piece of dialogue is purposeful and contributes to the overall story. Whether a character is whispering secrets in a dark alley or shouting in the heat of battle, their words should reflect the immediate environment and their emotional condition.

To master this aspect of dialogue writing, pay close attention to how the context influences the way people speak and interact. Consider how environmental factors, societal norms, and personal histories shape the characters' speech. This approach not only adds realism but also enriches the reader's experience by making the story's world more immersive and believable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions that will provide you more information.

What are the 10 rules of dialogue?

While the original seven rules provided form the core, three additional rules to consider for crafting effective dialogue include:

  1. Subtext is crucial: Dialogue should often imply more than it says outright, revealing deeper truths about the characters or situation.
  2. Balance dialogue with action: Ensure dialogue does not happen in a vacuum; actions and reactions should interweave with spoken words for dynamic scenes.
  3. Use dialogue to increase tension: Dialogue should not just fill space but serve to build conflict, reveal stakes, or escalate the tension in the narrative.

What 3 rules should you follow when writing dialogue?

Three fundamental rules to always follow when writing dialogue include:

  1. Be Concise: Keep dialogue sharp and to the point.
  2. Use Contractions and Informal Language: Make dialogue sound natural and authentic.
  3. Context Is Key: Ensure dialogue fits the situation and characters’ emotional states.

What are the 6 rules of dialogue?

In addition to the essential rules, the 6 rules of dialogue that emphasize the core principles for crafting compelling conversations include:

  1. Be Concise.
  2. Avoid Exposition Dumps.
  3. Use Contractions and Informal Language.
  4. Vary Speech Patterns.
  5. Listen to How People Speak.
  6. Read Aloud for Natural Flow.

What is rule 4 of dialogue?

Rule 4 of dialogue is to Vary Speech Patterns. This rule emphasizes the importance of giving each character a unique voice through their dialogue. Characters should speak in a way that reflects their background, personality, and current emotional state, helping to distinguish them from one another and adding depth to the narrative.


Mastering the art of dialogue is a journey that requires attention to detail, an understanding of your characters, and a commitment to authenticity. By applying the seven rules outlined in this post—being concise, avoiding exposition dumps, using contractions and informal language, varying speech patterns, listening to how people speak, reading aloud, and ensuring context is key—you can elevate your dialogue from simple exchanges to powerful moments that propel your narrative forward, reveal the depths of your characters, and connect with your readers on a deeper level.

Remember, dialogue is a tool not just for conveying information, but for immersing readers in your story's world, deepening their investment in the characters and plot. As with any aspect of writing, practice and experimentation are key. Don't be afraid to try new approaches, listen to feedback, and revise relentlessly. Your dialogue, and your story as a whole, will be all the stronger for it.

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