Skip to main content

Tips for writing and editing dialogue

When I edit an novel, I do about 6 to 8 edits, each focusing one one particular area.

The main areas I work on are: dialogue, descriptions, showing not telling, taboo words, chapter beginnings and endings, and backstory. It's important to edit this way so you don't get swept up in the reading. Much of what we read is skimmed over. When we edit, we shouldn't skim over anything!

Here’s are some tips on how I go about editing dialogue:


Are you paraphrasing what could be said? Dialogue is important, especially in YA fiction. If there is a conversation between characters, it is preferred that this be told through dialogue instead of paraphrasing.

Watch for lengthy prose that can be broken up with dialogue. And the opposite is true. Watch for too much dialogue that can be broken up with prose.

Informal Contractions/Catch phrases/Slang/Jargon/Accents/Native tongue

Is the dialogue natural? People say ‘cause, instead of because. They say ummm, yeah, dunno, gonna, wanna, whatchya... things like that. Information contractions are not used outside of dialogue or internal monologue.

Some people use slang, catch phrases, special words, jargon to convey their emotions. Be careful not to have too much. While this is fine for a sub character, it can be taxing to the reader to be always interpreting words. The Secret Garden is a classic example of how an accent is used throughout the book by one character and it can slow down the pace if a reader has to re-read.

Internal monologue

If it’s told in first person, you don’t need to use …I thought. You can simply italicise the internal thought.  Example: He’s kidding me, right?

If you use third person you can use … he/she thought. Some publishers like both. Example: He’s kidding me, right, she thought.

Watch for characters having one-sided conversations. This is probably best told using internal monologue. We often think things in front of a mirror, but we don’t often say them, that is why some characters get dogs to talk to. Sidekicks work well for this purpose, too.


Most characters do things while they talk. However, this can slow down a scene if there is too much action, but not enough action between dialogue can be like a Ping-Pong game - it's all back and forth.

Add things such as Bob fidgeted to convey nervousness, or Bob lifted his jaw to convey defiance.

Add a bit of internal monologue to break up ping-ponging because not everyone says what they think and this can make for interesting character interaction.   


It’s natural. We all do it. Characters can do it, too. Even if you have a character that is shy or nervous or afraid to argue back, they will still do it internally, so make sure you include this internal monologue in the conversation. It will add spice and realism to the dialogue.


It’s okay to have characters stumble to convey emotion. Example: “I cant…I just can’t.” or  “Wait. No, it’s okay. Ooh, I’m gonna regret this.” This also stops very stilted, formal dialogue from taking place.


Most people just glance over he said/she said so it’s fine to just use these.

Better to use the said tag than to pad the writing with adverbs such as exclaimed, gasped, screeched, argued. Use then when and if they are called for.
At the same time, watch for too much he said/she said, and watch for adverbs used in dialogue tags.  Instead of “Enough!” Bob said angrily. Use Bob slammed his fist on the table. “Enough!”

I hope these dialogue editing tips help with your manuscript. Subscribe to my newsletter if you'd like to receive more tips. I'll be posting more editing tips soon.

Thanks for dropping in!


D L Richardson is the author of speculative fiction. She has three teen novels and one short story anthology published. Her first novel reached number 2 at OmniLit and number 38 at Kobo Books. Her second reached number 1 at OmniLit. Little Red Gem is her third novel and recently won 2nd place Best Books of 2013 Paranormal Cravings. She lives in Australia on the NSW south coast with her husband and dog.

Contact information

Website Facebook  
Twitter    !/DLRichardson1


Popular posts from this blog

Latest news! I've signed up to write a post-apoc series

When I started writing, I had one set goal: to become a prolific author. At the time I was into reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and I wanted to write books, lots of them. 

Now I have that chance. After writing, publishing, and promoting 10 books, I've signed up to to write a series of post-apocalyptic fiction books for Mission Critical Publishing. The reason I signed up was simple. They're innovative. The publishing industry today is fast and fluid. 

I've agreed to write 3 books in 6 months. Each book will be around 60,000 words when completed. I'll need to become a writing machine. To accomplish this I'll need to do 2 things:

#1 Write fast

The only way for me to write fast is to write an overview of the entire book (or series). This can be one page per book. Then I write dots points that become the chapters. Complications, conflicts, solutions, all fit into these chapters.

Then I set a daily word count. I'm now at the stage where, provided I know what I'…

Top 10 Australian independent magazines for teenage girls

First up, I have to say that there aren't 10 blog/magazines listed, only 9. I couldn't find 10 so if you know of any please please please let me know who they are so I can include them on this list.

Flicking through the internet for stories is a bit like flicking through a pile of magazine clippings on the floor. It can be fun putting everything you want to read together in one pile, but after a while you might want to sit in a chair and have that pile put together in more manageable fashion for you to read, say maybe like the magazines or blogs the articles were cut out of.

Okay, that's enough of that analogy. This article is about finished product of blogs and magazines that compile together a host of articles on subjects a reader is interested in. I'm featured ten nine Australian independent magazines both virtual and tangible which I came across during one of my wild searches through hundreds of internet sites.

Magazines have really taken a bashing over the past decad…

The great Aussie drop bear

Just for fun, I thought I'd write a post about a great Aussie icon, the drop bear.

A drop bear is a hoax in contemporary Australian folklore featuring a predatory, carnivorous version of the koala. This imaginary animal is commonly spoken about in tall tales designed to scare tourists. Why? Because Australia actually has some of the world’s deadliest animals. And Australians truly are larrikins, so we love a good joke. 
If you don’t know what that word is, then you’re missing out on some great Aussie slang. Here is an extensive list of Aussie slang and their meanings if you're interested. If you ever set foot in the Outback (make that most of Australia), you will hear Aussie slang. Watch Crocodile Dundee and you'll pick up some Aussie slang: larrikin, strewth, fair dinkum, esky, bottle-O.  It’s like another language. 
But that’s not all that Australia is known for. We are also known for our dangerous animals.
There is a common perception amongst tourists that everything in Aus…