How to Write Dialogue in PSLE English Composition

Effective Dialogue for PSLE English Composition

Dialogue – the direct speech between characters in a narrative – is an essential element of creative writing. In the context of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) English Composition, it plays a crucial role in character development, advancing the plot, and making the story more engaging and realistic. However, writing effective dialogue that adheres to the guidelines of the Ministry of Education Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (MOE SEAB) can be challenging. Let’s delve into a comprehensive and detailed guide on how to write dialogue in the PSLE English Composition, with a balanced view of its pros and cons, and a deep understanding of the PSLE English syllabus.

The Importance of Dialogue in PSLE English Composition

The PSLE English syllabus places a significant emphasis on students’ ability to communicate effectively, both in speech and writing. In the context of Composition writing, dialogue facilitates this by serving as a tool for characterisation, showcasing personality traits, emotions, and relationships between characters.

Moreover, dialogue can provide critical information to advance the plot. It’s a way to reveal details without resorting to an information dump through narrative description, which is often considered less engaging. Dialogue also makes the story dynamic and lively, providing readers with a sense of ‘being there’, experiencing events alongside the characters.

Mastering the Technical Aspects of Dialogue

Before diving into crafting engaging conversations, students should be familiar with the technical rules of writing dialogue. Understanding these conventions is vital as they form the foundation for correct and readable dialogue.

  1. Quotation Marks: Each spoken word or phrase should be enclosed within quotation marks to indicate that a character is speaking.
  2. New Speaker, New Line: Start a new paragraph every time a new character speaks. This helps readers track the conversation and understand who is speaking without getting confused.
  3. Punctuation: Punctuation marks (like periods, commas, question marks, exclamation marks) go inside the quotation marks. If the dialogue is followed by a dialogue tag (like “he said”, “she asked”), use a comma before the closing quotation mark.
  4. Dialogue Tags: Use dialogue tags sparingly. Stick to simple tags like “said” or “asked” that don’t distract the reader.
Incorrect DialogueCorrect DialogueExplanation
“I don’t want to go there”. Said John.“I don’t want to go there,” said John.The comma goes inside the quotation marks, and the dialogue tag ‘said John’ is in lowercase.
“I’m hungry” John said “Can we eat now?”“I’m hungry,” John said. “Can we eat now?”The dialogue tag ‘John said’ needs to be followed by a full stop (or a comma if it’s in the middle of a sentence)
“I think it’s going to rain” he said, “We should bring an umbrella”.“I think it’s going to rain,” he said. “We should bring an umbrella.”When a dialogue tag separates two sentences, the tag should be followed by a full stop, and the next sentence should start with a capital letter.
“I can’t believe it’s already July!” Exclaimed Mary.“I can’t believe it’s already July!” exclaimed Mary.Even if the dialogue ends with an exclamation mark, the dialogue tag ‘exclaimed Mary’ should still be in lowercase.
“Why are you late?” Asked the teacher, “You should have been here an hour ago.”“Why are you late?” asked the teacher. “You should have been here an hour ago.”After a question mark, the dialogue tag ‘asked the teacher’ should be in lowercase, and it should be followed by a full stop if it’s at the end of the sentence.
“Wait!” John cried, “Don’t go!”“Wait!” John cried. “Don’t go!”Even if the dialogue tag comes in the middle of a spoken sentence, if it’s following an exclamation, it should be followed by a full stop.
“I don’t know,” He said, “I guess we’ll see.”“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess we’ll see.”After a comma, the dialogue tag ‘he said’ should be in lowercase, and it should be followed by a full stop if it’s at the end of the sentence.
“You need to study,” said the mother, “If you want to pass the exam.”“You need to study,” said the mother, “if you want to pass the exam.”When the dialogue tag comes in the middle of a spoken sentence, the sentence after the tag should start with a lowercase letter.

Crafting Effective Dialogue: Pros and Cons

The pros of using dialogue in composition are plentiful. Dialogue brings the story to life, gives a voice to characters, and makes the narrative engaging. It can reveal character traits and emotions more effectively than narration, and it’s a handy tool for showing rather than telling.

On the other hand, dialogue writing has its challenges (the cons), which can be overcome with practice and guidance. It can be tough to make dialogue sound natural and believable. It requires balance – overusing dialogue can make a narrative feel stilted, while under-using can leave the story feeling flat and unengaging. It’s also vital to avoid using dialogue as an info dump or to deliver chunky exposition.

MOE SEAB’s Expectations for PSLE English Composition

The MOE SEAB’s PSLE English syllabus expects students to write a coherent and effective narrative composition. They should be able to organise and express their ideas using appropriate language features, including dialogue. The use of dialogue should serve a clear purpose in the story, be it advancing the plot, revealing character traits, or creating suspense or humour.


Writing dialogue in PSLE English Composition requires a careful balance of technical proficiency and creative finesse. It’s about mastering the rules of writing dialogue, understanding the role it plays in your composition, and using it to express your characters and their stories effectively.

While dialogue writing may be challenging, primary composition tuition can be beneficial in honing this skill. With the right guidance, practice, and understanding of the PSLE English syllabus and MOE SEAB’s expectations, students can master the art of writing engaging and effective dialogue that brings their composition to life.

The ability to write dialogue is a valuable skill, not just for PSLE examinations but also for higher-level English writing and beyond. The key lies in understanding its function, mastering the technicalities, and allowing creativity to weave in character’s voice naturally and convincingly. So, let’s embrace the art of dialogue writing as we journey into the realm of creative composition, one conversation at a time.

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