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How to Format Dialogue in APA


According According to the American Film Institute, the movie “The Wizard of Oz” has some of the most memorable movie dialogue.

The American Psychological Association Publication Manual provides format and style guidance for a wide range of academic writing. The manual includes instructions for writing mechanics, including dialogue. The specific format used depends upon the type of discourse discussed in your writings.

Single Speaker

If only one speaker is being quoted, and that individual has a small amount to say, a dialogue tag -- such as "said," "asked" -- and quote are included within the text. The tag is set apart from the quote with a comma. The following example displays word and punctuation placement: The first participant interviewed said, "I never thought I'd be able to talk about this." He then related the incident in great detail.

Multiple Speakers

When writing dialogue between two or more participants, a new paragraph is started each time the speaker changes. The spoken words are in quotation marks, and they are separated from the dialogue tags by commas. An entry might read: She asked, "How are you coming with your research study?" "I'm not making much headway," he complained.

Long Dialogues

If the dialogue contains one person relating more than one paragraph, each paragraph of the quote begins with opening quotation marks. The closing quotation marks are placed only at the end of the final paragraph of dialogue. Any other paragraphs within the quote do not have closing quotation marks.

Movie Dialogue

If dialogue from a movie is being included, each quote begins with the speaker's name and a colon. The line in quotation marks follows. Each time there is a new speaker, a new line is started. For example: Cat: "Meow, meow, mew." Dog: "Woof, woof." Cat: "Mrow! Mrow!"

In-Text Citations

If dialogue has been taken from a source, there must be an in-text citation. This can be indicated before the quote by mentioning the author and placing the page number where the dialogue was found in parentheses after the quote, such as: Doe collected statements from the victims, including "I'll never believe it happened." (45) It is also acceptable to identify both the author and page number within parentheses. The two components are separated with a comma. For example: The woman shouted, "It will never happen again!" (Doe, 87)

Reference Page

Any citations within the text must be included on the references page at the end of the paper. Very often, dialogue is taken from books, so the author's last name is first, followed by a comma and the author's initials. The publication year is within parentheses. There is a period. Next comes the italicized name of the book in sentence case and a period. The publication location is followed by a colon, the publisher's name and a period. For example: Doe, N. (2004). The last book I read. Los Angeles, CA: The Book Company

About the Author

Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.

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