Quotations and Dialogue

Q. I am a fourth-grade teacher and am currently teaching my students how to insert dialogue into their personal narratives. Can the students insert the dialogue directly into their paragraph, or do they need to create a new paragraph and indent? What is the rule? When looking at novels I see dialogue being written each way.

A. It’s traditional to start a new paragraph with each new speaker. That is, a piece of dialogue can go straight into the paragraph as long as the person saying it was the last person mentioned. If someone else speaks, begin a new paragraph instead. This makes it clear who is speaking and when the speaker changes; it eliminates the need to write “Louise said” or “Fernando said” every time. Tell your students that experienced writers break the rule when it gets in the way, but that they should follow the rule until they’re able to give a reason for breaking it.