Dialogue \u2013 i.e., the words spoken by characters in a story \u2013 is a vital part of fiction. And to make sure your story is easy to read, you need to present the dialogue clearly. So to make sure your writing is perfect, check out our guide to punctuating and formatting dialogue in fiction.\n\n1. Basic Punctuation and Dialogue Tags\nThe most important thing about dialogue in fiction is to use quote marks. These are sometimes even known as \u201cspeech marks,\u201d as they indicate that someone has said something. All you need to do in this respect is place spoken dialogue within quote marks:\n\u201cThat is the biggest horse I have ever seen,\u201d said Craig.\nIn American English, as shown above, we use double quotes marks for dialogue. You may also have noticed some words outside the quote marks here. This is a dialogue tag. You can use dialogue tags to show who is speaking in a passage of dialogue (in this case, someone called \u201cCraig\u201d).\n\n2. Quotes within Dialogue\nIf a character in your story is quoting someone else in their speech, use single quotation marks to enclose the quote within the main speech marks. Take the following line of dialogue, for example:\n\u201cHe called me an \u2018arrogant fool\u2019 when I said I\u2019d seen bigger horses.\u201d\nHere, we have single quote marks around the words \u201carrogant fool.\u201d This shows us that the speaker is quoting someone while they are speaking.\n\n3. New Speaker, New Paragraph\nA good guideline when formatting dialogue is \u201cnew speaker, new paragraph.\u201d This means that when someone new starts speaking, you set the dialogue on a new line. For instance:\nCraig stared at the massive horse. \u201cSo huge,\u201d he muttered to himself.\n\u201cWhat are you doing?\u201d asked Shannon, emerging from the farmhouse.\n\u201cI\u2019m watching this massive horse,\u201d Craig said.\n\u201cI can see that,\u201d Shannon said. \u201cBut you\u2019ve been here for six hours, Craig.\u201d\nIn the passage above, we have dialogue from two characters. As such, we use line breaks to help the reader keep track of who is speaking, beginning a new line each time the speaker changes.\n\n4. Formatting Long Speeches\nOne passage of dialogue may require multiple paragraphs. For instance, a character may be telling another character a story within a story as part of your narrative, which could involve them speaking at length. And when this happens, it may not be obvious how to punctuate the dialogue.\nThe answer here is to use a quotation mark at the start of each paragraph when formatting dialogue. However, you will only use a closing quotation mark when the character finally finishes speaking:\nCraig sighed. \u201cI\u2019ve always been obsessed with horses,\u201d he explained. \u201cWhen I was a child, I spent weekends on my grandparents\u2019 farm. But all they had were miniature ponies. And they told me that all horses were the same size. They said the ones I saw on television looked bigger because they hired tiny actors to ride them. And I believed it.\n\u201cOr, I did until I was eighteen, anyway. That\u2019s when I met Clayton Moore, the guy who played the Lone Ranger on TV. And he was over six feet tall, so I knew that Silver couldn\u2019t have been as small as the ponies on my grandparents\u2019 farm! It had all been a lie! I felt so betrayed. And ever since then, I have been looking for the biggest horse I can find.\u201d\nIn the passage above, for instance, we do not use a closing quotation mark at the end of the first paragraph because it is only half way through Craig\u2019s dialogue. At the end of the second paragraph, however, we use a speech mark to show that Craig has finished speaking.\n\n5. Ellipses and Dashes\nFinally, you can use ellipses and dashes to indicate interruptions in dialogue. And while there are no strict rules about how this works, we suggest the following guidelines:\n\n\n \tUse ellipses to show that speech has trailed off (e.g., \u201cI don\u2019t know why you have a problem with\u2026\u201d Craig said, before falling into silence).\n \tUse an en dash or em dash to indicate speech that ends suddenly (e.g., \u201cYou need to take th\u2013\u201d Shannon began, before the horse neighed loudly).\n\nThis will help your reader tell the difference between dialogue that trails off and dialogue that is suddenly interrupted.