Module: The Writing Craft
Time: 11 minutes

In a nutshell: What is pacing in dialogue?

Pacing in dialogue essentially means making sure that the flow of the on-page conversation is believable, pushes the story forward, and contributes to the message. It’s an important tool in making conversation as effective in writing as it would be on video or audio. In business writing, pacing in dialogue makes sure the conversations you use serve the underlying communication of the content piece.

Examples

Poorly paced dialogue

“You remember how I went on that skiing trip last year? Yeah, we visited my great aunt and the kids had such a great time. But the ski resort’s branding was absolutely horrendous. I mean, just ridiculous. And so I was telling Andy about it, but he wasn’t really paying attention because he was heating his lunch.”
“Yeah, he’s not great at multitasking, is he?”
“No, he really isn’t. But here’s the thing, right? Suddenly, he looks up at me, and he mentions to me that he knows the owner of that ski resort.”
“No way.”
“Yeah, so he’s literally on the phone now, asking if we can send them a pitch.”

 

The pacing is slow – and about as uninteresting as watching your lunch heat up in the microwave.

Impactfully paced dialogue

“So, here’s the thing – the skiing resort I visited with the family was so outdated. I mean, it was a disaster.”
“Yeah, I remember you said something about that.”
“Well, Andy knows the owner.”
“Seriously?”
“Yes. He’s on the phone to him right now, and I think they might be keen on a pitch.”

Here, the pacing stays on topic. It communicates the core message – that there’s a possible pitch coming up.

When the pacing in dialogue is good, it elevates the writing tool considerably. When it’s off, it’s just as noticeable for all the wrong reasons. In 11 minutes, you’ll be able to make the small adjustments required to keep the tempo exciting and engaging for the reader.

 

Workshop goal: You are able to edit the pacing in dialogue so that it serves your communications in an effective way.

 

 Steps

 

1. Pick a recent piece of conversation you’ve had that was about something you typically find interesting – but that you experienced as boring. Chances are, the pacing was off. 1 min

2. Write down the conversation, in direct dialogue. If you don’t know how to do that, check out this workshop on dialogue in business writing first. 4 mins

3. Edit the conversation. Which parts are necessary for the message – the meaning – to come through? Which aren’t? Revisit your conversation and make it interesting. 4 mins

4. Plan a piece of content around the edited conversation and its topic. Make sure that the dialogue adds to the reading experience in the text you want to write. 2 mins

  

Now you’ve edited a conversation with pacing in mind, and so made sure that your communications are clearer and more interesting as a result. When the conversation flows right, it pulls the audience along, and makes them feel as if they were standing in the room where the conversation took place. That increases the chances of them remembering what you have to say, and feeling a sense of connection to what you’re saying.