Some people are born writers, but we can all learn how to write. Artful and flawless use of language is important in storytelling. It can make an average piece of writing good, and a good story one that lingers in the reader's mind. You need to know how to write dialogue, which words and voice to use and how to create rhythm in your writing. Dialogue The way we speak is not dialogue. Everyday speech is full of rambling sentences and ums and ahs that don't flow. Dialogue needs to be better than actual speech. It also needs to be short and snappy to engage the reader. A rule of thumb is three to four sentences for each exchange in a dialogue. To make dialogue easy to read, put quotation marks around the spoken words and start a new paragraph every time a new character speaks. Here's an example: 'It wasn't me,' said May, staring at her shoelaces. 'I saw you running away,' said Mrs Chan. 'I was coming to tell you what happened!' cried May as she looked up. Mrs Chan's eyes narrowed. 'Don't lie to me,' she said. Word choice Strong, vivid words can make a story come alive. Some words are smudges. Others are paintbrushes that create pictures in the reader's mind. Try to use paintbrushes whenever you can. For example, instead of 'looked', use 'peered', 'studied' or 'examined'. And choose your words carefully. A passage filled with unnecessary adjectives and adverbs slows down the pace of the story. Read the sentence below and replace the underlined words with stronger ones. Andy looked at the big snake in front of him. He was very scared. Rhythm and voice Good writing is like music - the sound of the language has rhythm. You can create rhythm in your writing by using a variety of sentence structures and lengths. Look at the passages below and decide which one sounds better and why: 1. Sue wanted to talk to Alex. She wasn't sure what to say. Alex approached her. She felt the blood rush to her face. 2. Sue wanted to talk to Alex, but she wasn't sure what to say. As Alex approached, she felt the blood rush to her face. Another thing to consider is whether to use the active or passive voice. Using the active voice will make your writing livelier. So instead of 'The girl was chased by the dog' (passive voice), use 'The dog chased the girl' (active voice). Revising There's no such thing as a perfect story. Every piece of writing needs to be polished until it shines. Here are some tips to give your story the finishing touch: Check the spelling and punctuation. Check for incorrect parts of speech, wrong verb tenses, missing articles and mistakes in singular and plural forms. Delete unnecessary adjectives and adverbs such as 'very' and 'quickly'. Read every word to make sure it's the best one you can use. Read your story aloud to make sure it flows. Now get out your red pen and take a fresh look at a story you've written. Be prepared to rewrite parts of it. Remember that the worth of each word is in the way you use it. Your ultimate goal is to fine-tune the language of your story so that the reader can waltz through it effortlessly.