Conversational Essay Format

By now, the rules of using quotation marks have probably been pounded into your head–use them when quoting a source or using dialogue, and know where to put your punctuation.

But don’t worry if they haven’t been pounded into your head. I’ll cover it later.

You may understand when to use quotation marks and even when to include quotes from outside sources, but what about dialogue?

That’s the one that always gets you, right?

You may not know the technical difference between quoting a source and using dialogue, or maybe you don’t know how to tell which to include in your essay, or how to properly incorporate dialogue into your essay.

Slow down. Take a breath. Just relax.

I’m here to answer these and other questions you may have about how to write dialogue in an essay. I’ll take you through the main what, when, why, how, and where of writing dialogue:

  • What is dialogue?
  • When is it appropriate to use dialogue in your essay?
  • Why should you use dialogue?
  • How to write dialogue in an essay
  • Where can you get more information about using dialogue?

Dialogue: What It Is and What It Isn’t

In order for you to know how to write dialogue in an essay, you should know what exactly dialogue is first.

It’s really pretty simple. Dialogue is just a conversation between two or more people. It can be used in movies, plays, fiction or, in this case, essays. Dialogue should not be confused with quotations from outside sources.

Because quotation marks are used with both dialogue and quoting directly from sources, it’s important to know the difference between the two. Here are the main differences to help clear up any confusion you might have:

DialogueDirect quotes
Conversation between 2 or more peopleInformation from an outside source used word-for-word in your essay
Used as a hook or as part of a larger storyUsed as a hook or to provide support for an argument

A big point of confusion often comes from directly quoting dialogue. In this case, think about what you’re using that dialogue for–to demonstrate a point in your argument. Therefore, quoting dialogue would fall under the direct quote category.

Now that you know what dialogue is, it’s time to explore when to use it in your essay.

Knowing When to Use Dialogue in Your Essay and Why You Should Bother

As I mentioned before, dialogue is used all over the place, especially in movies, television, novels, and plays. For you and for the purposes of this advice, however, dialogue only really appears in one kind of essay–the narrative essay.

Why is this the case? It’s because other types of essays (i.e., argumentative and expository essays) aim to claim. In an argumentative essay, you are claiming that your point of view is the right one, and in an expository essay you are making a claim about how something works or explaining an idea.

Narrative essays, on the other hand, involve a more story-like nature. They tell readers of your past experiences. Many of those experiences include other people and the conversations you’ve had with them.

Using dialogue in argumentative and expository essays usually won’t add to your argument and may actually make it weaker. This is because your friends and family are probably not the best sources to  get your support from–at least not for essays. Instead, it’s a better plan to directly quote or paraphrase from experts in the topic that your essay is about.

Using dialogue in narrative essays is a great technique. Dialogue helps move the story along, adds dimension to any characters you might have, and creates more interest for the reader.

Don’t believe me? Imagine reading a novel in which none of the characters spoke, or a movie in which none of the actors had a single line. Pretty boring, right? Well the same concept can apply to your narrative essay.

How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

Now that you understand when to use dialogue, we can get into the nitty-gritty of proper formatting. (That is, just in case your teacher hasn’t covered it, or if you need a little bit of a review.) The rules for writing dialogue in your essay break down into two main categories: proper use of quotation marks and where to put other punctuation.

Quotation Marks (U.S. rules)

There are three main rules about quotation marks you need to know. They’re listed below, followed by examples:

Rule 1: Use double quotation marks to indicate that a person is speaking in your writing.

Example: When I was young, my mother told me, “Follow your passion and the money will come.”

Rule 2: Use single quotation marks around a quote within a quote.

Example: “What did Benjamin Franklin mean when he said, ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’?” Ms. Jackson asked.

Rule 3: If a person in your essay has more than a paragraph of dialogue, use the opening quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph, but use closing quotation marks only at the end of the dialogue.

Example: Sarah nodded and said, “I think you’re right. We can’t get very far on this project if we can’t work together.

“But now there’s hardly any time left. Do you really think we can get it all done by Friday?”

Punctuation

There are only a few basic rules you need to know about where to put your punctuation when using dialogue.

Rule 1: If the quotation is at the end of a sentence, ALWAYS put your periods inside the quotation marks.

Ricky cried, “Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do”.

Doc explained, “The reason the time machine isn’t working is because the flux capacitor doesn’t have enough power.”

Rule 2: Put question marks and exclamation points inside the quotation marks only if they are part of what the person said.

The girl shouted, “Get that thing away from me”!

Billy was so ecstatic that he screamed, “I passed! I passed calculus!”

Rule 3: If the quote is part of a larger question or exclamation, put the punctuation after the quotation marks.

Did you hear Leo scream, “I’m king of the world?”

Did he just say, “The bird is the word”?

Rule 4: Use commas after said, asked, exclaimed or other similar verbs if they fall before the quote.

My brother said “I’m going to get you for this, sis.”

Mom always says, “Don’t play ball in the house.”

Rule 5: Place a comma inside the quotation marks if those verbs come after the quote.

“It’s getting dark. Come back inside” our mother called.

“Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes,” Mrs. Perkins said.

Rule 6: If a quoted sentence is broken up, put commas after the first part of the sentence, and after said, asked, exclaimed, etc.

“Yeah” she shrugged “I guess you’re right.”

“No,” she said, “I don’t have any plans tomorrow.”

Proper use of quotation marks and punctuation is not some random thing that you have to learn for no reason. These rules make your sentences easier to read and understand. Without them, your dialogue may turn into a headache for your reader, or for you when you go back and edit your writing.

Where to Find More Resources for How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

If you need some further clarification, you can use the links below for more examples and explanation on how to write dialogue in an essay.

Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles – Purdue Owl

Talking Texts: Writing Dialogue in the College Composition Classroom

Writing Story Dialogue

How to Write Dialogue – Grammar Girl

Dialogue in Narrative Essays

In addition, the Kibin personal narrative essay examples can show you what dialogue looks like incorporated into a complete essay.

If you don’t think you quite have the hang of it when you’re done writing, you can send your essay to the Kibin editors for advice on how to fix it.

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

Did your English teacher teach you how to write in conversational tone?

Have you ever spent hours writing a great piece of content. Then you expect to get loads of positive feedback, a spike in traffic coming to your blog and tons of social media engagement, only to find out that none of these happened? And the reason for this is because no one actually read your content?

I did, and it sucked.

You’re probably wondering why the content that you’ve put so much effort writing isn’t getting the attention it deserves even though it is genuinely top-notch.

Well, you might not believe this, but the answer might be – your English teacher.

It may seem unfair to push the blame of your poor performing articles to your English teacher. The truth is, she is indeed the culprit.

Our English teachers have been preaching to us the importance of writing formally and how to write formally all the time. Now that we (most of us) are out of school, how many times are we required to write formally?

Almost Zero!

Because we’re so used to writing formally, we do so all the time even when we don’t have to. For bloggers, writing formally is a costly yet common mistake. We should be writing in a conversational tone instead.

What Is Conversational Writing?

Conversational style of writing breaks most of the grammatical rules. Conversational writing aims at the target audience and addresses them. Sentences may begin with pronouns and end with verbs. Sentences may even begin with “and,” “but,” and “yet.”

Simply put, writing in a conversational tone makes an article sounds like a conversation between two person rather than a textbook.

Why Should We Write In Conversational Tone?

The benefits of writing in conversational tone are:

  • Creates connection. Writing in conversational tone will make you feel more genuine and human. Readers will feel like they know you in person and have your attention.
  • Easy editing. There are fewer rules if you write conversationally, your readers will also be more tolerant of grammar mistakes.
  • Fewer writers block. By writing conversationally, you can write like you normally talk, and that would make your ideas and words come out easier.
  • More reader engagement. Your readers will feel a personal connection established between you and them. They will feel more involved, which encourages them to have a discussion with you.
  • More fun. Fact: Most people prefer having a conversation on how to change a lightbulb than having to read up an instruction manual on how to change a lightbulb. Writing conversationally can turn your wall of text into an engaging conversation with the readers.
  • Increase readership. All of the benefits above lead to this main benefit — increase readership.

How Do We Write In A Conversational Tone?

Most of us have no idea how to write in a conversational tone because our English teacher have never taught us how to. Even if we did, we get penalized for doing so. Since we’re not in school anymore, let’s check out a few blogging tips below on how to write in a conversational tone.

1. Use Simple, Easy to Understand Words

It could be tempting to use that new word you’ve just learned from your weekly reading. However, the internet isn’t the place for you to flaunt your wide vocabulary, your readers won’t be impressed, they’ll be frustrated instead.

Example:

“He commenced learning to utilize that difficult machine, subsequently, his proficiencies ameliorate.”

What!? Here’s a better version:

“He started learning to use that difficult machine, then, his skills improved.”

Sometimes you might need to use the complex words to communicate a more precise meaning, sometimes you just can’t avoid them due to the subject matter. It’s alright to use them under such circumstances. As a general rule, try to use simpler words as the basis of your writing and only use complex words when they’re absolutely necessary.

2. Use “You” and “I”

Contrary to formal writing, conversational writing requires you to make it personal. By using words like “you” and “I”, you are making the reader feel like you’re writing to them personally and that increases readership and engagement.

Example:

“Social media marketers should definitely try out using Instagram to connect with their audience.”

A more conversational tone of writing will be:

“If you are a social media marketer, you should definitely try out using Instagram to connect with your audience.”

3. Tell Stories

Human beings are naturally compelled by stories. Stories appeal to personal emotions and engages sensory triggers. Turn your facts and figures into stories and you’ll notice a significant improvement in your time on site.

Example:

“Our company’s mission is to provide everyone in the world with healthy and nutritional fruit based breakfast that contains low-fat and low-sugar.”

Storytelling version:

“Our company’s mission is to bring the sweet tang of blueberries and the comforting warmth of a bowl of oatmeal to kitchen tables throughout the entire world”

Learn more about storytelling and how to use it to increase readership here.

4. Keep it Short

The length of your sentences and words will affect how difficult it is to read your article. Generally, you should:

  • Keep your sentences short. Break long sentences into several short ones. Long sentences will reduce readability.
  • Use words with fewer syllables. Words with more syllables reduce readability.

Example:

“Jack made Susan a beautiful handmade card and gave it to her for her birthday as Jack tries to win her heart because he is in love with her.”

This sentence is obviously too long and might need to be read a few times to be fully understood. Breaking it up will improve its readability.

“Jack is in love with Susan. He made her a beautiful handmade card for her birthday. Jack is trying to win her heart.”

Here’s a great tool that you can use to measure the readability of your articles.


5. Break the Rules

Remember all those grammatical rules your English teacher taught you? Well, most of them aren’t applicable to conversational writing. For example, in conversational writing:

  • You can end a sentence with a preposition.
  • You can start a sentence with And/But.
  • You can use contractions. In fact, you should use them often.
  • You don’t need to write complete sentences.

However, you should be careful when breaking these grammatical rules as you do not want to come off sounding like an illiterate.

Example:

“How to tell which keywords my website is ranking on search engines?”

“How to tell which keywords my website is ranking for?”

Although the first one might be grammatically correct, people prefer reading the second one as it is more conversational.

6. Use Active Voice Instead of Passive Voice

When writing in conversational tone, use active verbs and prevent using passive verbs. Passive verb construction is a clear sign of over formalized language. Take out the extra words and put your subjects back up front.

Example:

“The door was opened by Jolin.”

Passive verbs discourage engagement. Use active verbs instead:

“Jolin opened the door”

7. Do Not Ramble

Similar to keep it short, the idea here is to convey your message in as few words as possible. If you can convey your message in three sentences, don’t do it in five.

On the internet, every word counts. If you have too many words that mean nothing, your readers will eventually tune out. Always be concise and straight to the point when conveying a message.

Example:

“Based on our recent survey, 75% of marketers find SEOPressor to be a useful SEO WordPress plugin. Which means, only 1 in 4 person doesn’t think SEOPressor to be helping their SEO efforts.”

When you can just say:

“Statistically, 3 quarter of marketers love using SEOPressor.”

8. Ask Questions

You know what makes your content sound really conversational? Questions!

When you ask questions, you are actually engaging the readers directly by giving them something to think about actively. However, your intention isn’t really for your readers to figure things out on their own. So it’s more effective if you follow-up your question with an answer immediately so that your reader won’t have time to think of the wrong answer.

Nike utilized questions in their posters to great effect.

Example:

“Do you know where to get the Biggest, Loudest and Cheapest speakers in town? Here in Stark’s Audiohouse of course!”

9. Use Examples, Similes and Metaphors

Using examples and metaphors can effectively make complex ideas simple and easy to understand. For example, I’ve included an example for every point that I suggested in this post to show how you can apply those steps. Examples, similes, and metaphors don’t just make you sound more conversational, they can also strengthen your message.

Example:

“She’s really lovely.”

As compared to

“She’s really lovely, like a daisy covered in morning dew surrounded by fluttering butterflies.”

10. Write to Your Target Audience

Remember that you are only writing to your target audience, not everyone. If you write as though you are writing to everyone, chances are, your content would sound just like everyone’s else and no one will truly connect with you.

To do so, you must first identify your target audiences. When identifying, the more specific you are, the better.

As always, I hope that these blogging tips on writing conversationally helps you with increasing the readership of your blog and gets the attention it deserves.

Related Links:

  • How To Improve Your Sales Emphatically Through Storytelling
  • 10 Common SEO Myths That Makes Us Cringe [Infographic]
  • 5 Remarkable Posts That Our Brains Love To Feed On
  • Updated: 10 March 2018

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