Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Speech-marks and dialogue

Just another thing I’ve discovered while working through my edit *grin* You may or may not know this and I hope this info is helpful to other newbies like myself out there.

In my manuscript I switch POV frequently.  It gives a broader view point for the reader and means you have insight into quite a few of the characters.  It’s very fun and VERY challenging to write as it has to be clear to the reader whom they’re following and when.
I also have creatures in the story that use telepathy to ‘speak’.  So this means I have to be able to make a clear distinction between all these varying conversations.  After a lot of googling last week (said it before and I’ll say it again, Google – best invention EVER!) I’ve come up with the following solution for myself and some basic ‘writing dialogue’ points.

My solution for my manuscript is to make telepathy in italics between single speech marks i.e
‘What’s up?’

To make thoughts in a persons head on a single line i.e
Oh crap..

Normal speech is like this
“What’s up?”

And when I refer to the ‘rational voice’ or the ‘silly voice’ in a persons mind it’s in italics with an appropriate tag and no speech-marks at all, ie
Maybe not such a good idea, thought my rational voice.

This may sound chaotic but I’m very happy to say it actually reads well (trust me, I’m SUPER critical on my writing now – rose tinted glasses are sooo gone).

And the basic suggestions (shouldn’t say rules, nothing’s set in stone) for easy to follow dialogue editing are.
Start the beginning of new dialogue with a capital
Keep full stops inside the speech marks if appealing to a mainly US audience (have had to change mine from the UK version of outside speech marks)
Keep each persons dialogue to a separate line – easy to read and follow
Try to design your dialogue so as to reduce the number of ‘tags’ you need, a tag being ‘she said’ or ‘john explained’.  Tags are often over-used.

If anyone else has dialogue pointers let me know!  I’d love to hear them (and I promise I’m working on the Road-trip video and post) 


  1. Have you read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse??

    she does some interesting dialogue in there on account of "internal monologue' rapid change of time line (centuries apart) and POV changes and telepathic links i think?

    have a squiz if you can...

  2. hey, good idea! that will make is SOOO much easier to follow! :)

  3. Those are EXCELLENT.
    I knew nothing on my first few projects and going back to double check and change all that is EXHAUSTING!

  4. o i agree BTW, internal monologue definitely works best in italics without speech marks!
    no other way about it!! :-)

  5. I agree too. Italics are definitely the way to go for speech.

    Good post :)

  6. Google is truly a handy device and very good for instant answers!! Yay!!

    Good luck with your editing!! Sounds ever so complicated with various POVs and telepathic dialogue! Wow! Take care

  7. I'd never noticed the difference between US and UK dialogue marks, but then I guess I get caught up in the story and don't read critically.

  8. I noticed that some books had different dialogue marks--but I didn't know it was because of a difference between US/UK!

    Thanks for posting about dialogue!