How to Cite Dialogue in a Novel

When writing a formal essay that will be either handed in for a grade or potentially published, it’s important to cite external sources correctly to avoid issues of plagiarism. It’s also important to choose relevant pieces of external information to support your argument. By abiding by several key citation rules you’ll be able to cite dialogue from a novel professionally and successfully.

Proper Setup

In order for your dialogue selection from a novel to be properly placed within a paper or article, there must be at least a few sentences contextualizing the dialogue and offering explanation as to why you’re including it. This could be in the form of key pieces of information that clarify the dialogue, as in justification of tone or subject matter, or an explanation of which character delivered it and why. Before inserting the dialogue it’s also essential to lead into the actual dialogue. For example, a fine lead in sentence could read: "Which is clarified when the protagonist states, 'It's underground.'"

Dialogue Selection

Which piece of dialogue you choose in support of your central argument is important. Just because dialogue from a novel has to do with the general gist of your central argument does not mean that the entire dialogue is going to improve your argument or make it more legitimate. If you’re trying to prove that the antagonist is more concerned with her own appearance than the well-being of animals, a section of dialogue she delivered explaining how she drove over a cat while fixing her make up in the mirror would offer good support for your claim.


Once you’ve lead into your quote and inserted the selected quote into your paper or article, the quote must be followed by the last name of the author of the novel and the page number of where you found the text. This information, the author’s last name and the page number, must be put in parenthesis. This is how the reader will be able to refer to your bibliography and identify exactly where the piece of dialogue you’ve inserted came from. The period ending the sentence should be inserted after the parentheses and not inside the quote.

Works Cited

If you fail to correctly include the novel’s citation in your bibliography, the dialogue selection you include in the body of your paper or article will be meaningless. For a novel, a novel’s works cited citation must begin with the full name of the author, last name first, the title of the novel in italics, the place of publication, name of publication, year of publication and the medium of publication. This completes your citation and tells the reader of exactly where your dialogue selection has been taken from.