Two quick-and-dirty nuts-and-bolts dialogue tips for dialogue formatting. But dialogue in fiction has many rules to follow. Writers are always curious about formatting dialogue, or how to write it better. Why? Literary agents and publishers are always looking for examples of sharp, smart dialogue that’s a distillation of real life, or real life enhanced (Read more about writing realistic dialogue here.) This is a very nuanced topic, above and beyond the scope of one post, but here are two dialogue tips that you want to make sure you follow.
Two Simple Dialogue Tips
First, if you are addressing a character by name, the standard formatting includes a comma before and the capitalization of the name. An example:
“Would you like this disgusting tennis ball, Gertie?” (My dog’s favorite question.)
Second, if the character happens to be the parent in your story, you need to make an important distinction. Are you addressing them as Mom or Dad (as if it is their name), or are you referring to them as a noun? I see this all the time in manuscripts. Here’s an example that makes the distinction clear:
“Do you have a mom, too, Mom?”
Here, you can talk about “a mom” or “her dad” or “his mommy” all you want, but it is lowercase. The second you use it to address a character, just as you would a name, it becomes capitalized. A quick proofread will tell you if you’re on the right track. If not, commit this simple dialogue formatting rule of thumb to memory. (Ready for more dialogue tips? Maybe about dialogue tags? Now we’re getting into the real meat of this very important topic.)
Dialogue writing can be tricky for even the most seasoned writer. Not only do I proofread every manuscript for errors like these as your book editor, but I’ll give you bigger picture creative feedback on your work.