When characters in a story are speaking the text is set off in a unique way so that readers can visually identify dialogue on the page.  Here's how to do it.

Formatting Dialogue

  • "I'm the Queen of France," said Marie Antoinette.
    • The bolded section is the actual dialogue.
    • The italicized section is called the dialogue tag. It indicates who is speaking and how he or she speaks.
    • Note that the dialogue is contained within quotation marks and ends with a comma. This is the standard.
  • "I was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo," said Napoleon Bonaparte, "and also very short."
    • Notice here that the dialogue tag is in the middle and has a comma at the end. This is because both sections of dialogue form one sentence.
  • "I went to the Crusades," said Richard the Lionheart. "They were in the Middle East."
    • Here, though, the tag uses a period, because "I went to the Crusades" and "they were in the Middle East" are two separate sentences.
  • "I have conquered Constantinople!" shouted Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror.
    • Notice that even though the dialogue contains ending punctuation (an exclamation point, in this case) that the tag still has a period.


"Hello," said Lord Horatio Nelson. "I'm an admiral in England's Royal Navy." He and Themistocles were standing on a dock looking out at the ocean.
"I'm a sailor, too," said Themistocles. "I led the Athenian navy against the Persians at the Battle of Artemisium."
"Capital! I've studied that battle in the history books!"

  • Notice that whenever a new character speaks a new paragraph is started.
  • Notice, too, that the underlined description is not put in a new paragraph.
  • Observe that the second time Nelson speaks there is no dialogue tag. Since there are only two characters in this scene it's fairly obvious that it's Nelson who talks; Themistocles would hardly be speaking to himself!
  • Be careful about omitting too many tags, though, as it can get confusing.