Thoughts on dialogue formatting

“Think he’ll do a list again?”

“No. No way is that bastard gonna do another list. He don’t have the balls.”

“I swear, if this lowbrow thinks he can just get away with list upon list upon list, then he’s got another thing coming. No one will read his blather.”

“I still don’t think he got the bollocks.”

“Would you be willing to bet on that?”

“I’ll bet on me throngin’ him. I swear on me mum, I’ll take his little ass down to the pier and throw him off.”

“That’s uncouth.”

“I say it fair.”


  1. QUOTATION MARKS – Though I’m a fan of Cormac McCarthy, his style, especially when it comes to dialogue is just that. His. For the most part, the writing that I’ve seen that tries to mime him, or jumps off of his style does a poor job. Such is the nature of experimentation. So generally, try to use quotation marks.
  2. ADVERBS AFTER TAGS – Nine times out of ten, they aren’t useful, nor are they interesting. For the most part, adverbs, when used as addendums to dialogue tags, don’t patch up enough of the holes in weak dialogue. However, the right adverb, in the right place, can add volumes. It can’t do this to a line that started off as weak.
  3. DIALOGUE TAGS – For the most part, it’s ideal for the story to be a case of he said, she said. Not he wished, she cajoled, he dreamt, she pried. Overall, these tags add little to dialogue. My general rule is more lax than the strictest ideas on it, but in the same vein. I generally lean towards the idea that dialogue tags should inform at most the auditory quality of what is being said. Hissed, yelled, yowled, yawped, howled, bellowed, whispered, and the like. Most of the others can be better used in other ways.

As a parting remark, maybe you don’t need to use dialogue tags at all sometimes. As long as it’s clear, let the dialogue and the action stand as much for itself as it can.