How to Write a Dialogue in an Essay with Example

This article will reveal all you need to know about how to write a dialogue, types of dialogues in an essay, and formatting. In addition, in this article, you will find several examples of English essay dialogue and dialogue between two characters.

What Is a Dialogue?

The definition of a dialogue is as simple as it gets. Dialogue is a conversation or discussion between two or more people in a book, play, or film. If you are wondering where the surprise part is coming in, here it is: it is not just any conversation. If you include a dialogue in an essay, it has to convey some kind of conflict, emotional tension, a surprising fact, or an interesting turn of events.

Dialogues in essays are not focused on mundane things because mundane things are just not interesting to read about.

There is a range of things NOT to include in your dialogue, such as:

  • Throat-clearing sentences – parts of dialogue that do not add to the plot, but simply take space
  • Ramblingthis is the least relevant and interesting type of dialogue, which your readers are most likely to skip
  • Words like “um”, “hm”, “like”, “sorta”, “kinda” – while it is important to speak the language of your readers to engage with them, avoid making them feel like they listen to a discussion between two people on the street.
  • Profanities and slang – keep it classy instead of crassy.

 It is surely rare to hear people in real life speaking like characters in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, but this doesn’t mean dialogues shouldn’t be refined to sound realistic.

Types of Dialogues

While choosing how to convey the words of characters in an essay for the readers, you have two options: active and passive dialogue. Active dialogue includes quotes and quotation marks, while passive dialogue implies paraphrasing of the quotes and telling them from the narrator.

Examples of these types of dialogue are below:

1Active dialogue example

Peter asked, “Joanna, can you take kids to your mother tonight?”

“Sure, I will drive them there as soon as they get back home from school,” she replied.

2Passive dialogue example

Peter asked Joanna whether she would be able to take kids to her mother tonight. Joanna was exhausted by a long ride, however, agreed anyway, taking the chance to avoid the serious talk she needed to have with her husband.

From these short dialogues, we can see that active dialogue allows readers to imagine the situation much better, while passive dialogue can provide more details just by adding extra facts to the narration.

How to Put a Dialogue in an Essay?

how to put dialogue in an essay

The purpose of a dialogue in an essay is to create a more vivid picture for the audience. The functions of a dialogue in an essay include:

  • Providing extra information about characters
  • Unravel interesting or surprising plot twists and details about the story
  • Attract readers’ attention

If your dialogue meets at least one of these criteria, it is a good dialogue to put in an essay. In fact, dialogues can help you tell a lot of information about the story and characters in a relatively short abstract. Adding descriptions of how people say something or why they say it is the key to describing their own behavior.

How to Format a Dialogue

Now let’s move on to the most intriguing part of writing a dialogue – punctuation and formatting. When you stumble upon a dialogue in any narrative essay or text, punctuation might seem to have a lot of different styles, which is confusing.

Of course, common errors in English are still relevant here, but dialogues have evolved their own punctuation rules.

There are three simple steps you need to follow in order to format your dialogue correctly in an essay:

1In a dialogue, commas, exclamation marks, and question marks are inside the quotation marks:

“How could you do this? Moving a couch across the room isn’t a job for a fourteen-year-old girl!” Diane’s mom yelled in despair.

“These macaroons are just exquisite! I would love it if you would give me a recipe,” my aunt asked me.

“This movie was so scary that I could barely look at the screen!” her son complained after watching Jaws.

2Use commas to set off dialogue tags, such as “he said” or “she exclaimed”:

“Enough of this,” he said, “I am absolutely tired of repairing this car! I will rather save up and buy a new one.”

“Pepsi has too much sugar in it, this is diabetes in a can,” the grandmother said in a sad voice.

“I have been reading The New York Times for years now,”the teacher said. “This newspaper has never disappointed me.”

3If your quotation is at the end of the sentence, put a period inside the quotation marks as well:

Uncle Joe frowned, scratched his forehead, and finally replied, “I have no idea why my car keys are in the fridge.”

He then told her the biggest lie he could ever tell, “I never left the wet towel on the bathroom floor.”

Sarah pointed at zebra and asked her father, “Daddy, I have never seen a black and white horse.”

Pay attention to the following: if one person’s speech takes more than one paragraph, use opening quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph, however, do not use closing marks till the end of the speech.


My new neighbor always seems to be the most enthusiastic to tell me about her perfumes. One day, I asked her, “How did you come to like and wear perfumes?”

She replied, “I have always wondered about where perfumes came from. This huge industry has grown from our scent preferences, experience with different smells, and scent associations. Probably, this is connected to our evolution as species, where detecting specific smell would mean choosing safe food.

“Until recently, I have never been wearing perfumes myself, but admired them from a distance. Now I have a small collection of fragrances. I have learned a lot about fragrance industry and notes used in perfumery.”

How to Write a Dialogue Between Two Characters

Now that you know all about the purpose of a dialogue in an essay as well as how to write it and use punctuation, learning how to write a dialogue between two characters will be a piece of cake.

The rules you should follow are:

  • Give your characters a setting. Just like in movies, mise-en-scene is often as important as the dialogue itself. Set the scene for the dialogue by briefly describing where and when the dialogue takes place. This will help your readers imagine the picture more vividly.
  • Keep it realistic. Unless it suits your essay style, there is no need to be smarty pants and write dialogues with words and scientific facts that are hard to understand for an average reader. While writing a dialogue, reread it several times and make sure it doesn’t make you think “nobody talks like that!”
  • Let the dialogue flow naturally. Put yourself into your characters’ shoes and imagine how you would react to something being said to you. This is how you will find the way for the dialogue to seem natural and flow seamlessly.
  • Don’t overuse it. While dialogue is a great tool for an essay, turning an essay into a play script with only quotes is another mistake you want to avoid.
  • Make your characters human. Add details about feelings and emotions into the dialogue, both from the narrator and from the dialogue itself. Let your audience understand the tone and mood of the dialogue.
  • Give the dialogue a purpose. By all means, discussion about whether a cake is tasty or not can be passionate, emotional, and tense altogether. However, this is not something to include in a dialogue. Your dialogue should have a purpose in the plot and affect the characters involved in it.
  • Make sure to indicate who is who. This might seem like a rookie mistake in writing a dialogue in an essay, however, it happens. Have you ever read a long dialogue where you couldn’t understand anymore who talks? If your dialogue in an essay is longer than 5-6 quotes, make sure to add narrator’s text that will clarify who says those lines.

In a dialogue between two characters, it is easy to do because the readers do not need to remember many names or attributes. To avoid repetitions, use “he” or “she”, or specific features and roles, such as family member name (aunt, uncle, grandmother, nephew, etc.), significant appearance characteristic (blonde girl, tall man, lady in red, etc.), and specific roles people have (student, cashier, sale associate, doctor, nurse, etc.). In case you use any of those, make sure that you mention these attributes earlier in the text to avoid confusion.

Following these tips will help you write a truly meaningful dialogue between two characters and help readers understand additional information about them, their mood, features, preferences, role in the story, and relationships between them.

English Essay Dialogue Example

John finally returned home after a long day at work. It was raining cats and dogs and his raincoat was soaked. He opened the door, entered his apartment, and put his bag on the floor. suddenly , his phone started ringing. John took it out of his pocket and picked up.

“Dad, itl burned down… I am so sorry,” he heard his daughter’s sad voice. She was crying.

“What are you talking about?! Jen, are you alright?”

“Dad, your summer cottage, it burned down to the ground” she was clearly devastated.

John asked, “How did this happen?”

“Just an accident, dad. You must have left the fire in the fireplace,” Jen replied.

At this moment, John sighed with relief, even though his daughter might have thought he was very upset by the loss. She had no clue that her father insured their summer cottage and now the word “accident” meant lining his pocket from insurance money for sure.

So, now you know everything you need to write a dialogue in your essay successfully! Still, I strongly recommend to consider whether you need it at all — even when tutors assign such a creative writing, they are very meticulous in its evaluation. Moreover, pay attention to editing — due to sophisticated punctuation, dialogues are a never-ending source of students’ errors.

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