Dialog vs. dialogue?

Dialogue” is an alternate spelling of “dialog,” which means ‘a conversation between two or more people’ or ‘the exchange of ideas.’

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What is the difference between dialog and dialogue?

The main difference between dialog and dialogue involves national spelling differences. “Dialogue” is the preferred spelling for Canadian and British English, while American English uses “dialog” and “dialogue” interchangeably. The same usage applies to words like “dialog box” or “dialogue box” (aka, the window prompts that pop up on your computer). 

Which is more formal: dialog or dialogue?

If you inquired about Garner’s Modern English Usage (GMEU) or The Associated Press Stylebook, both sources insist that the longer spelling of “dialogue” is the preferred spelling (Garner 274; The Associated Press 82). 

What does dialogue or dialog mean?

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, the noun dialogue (also spelled dialog) is ‘a conversation between two or more people within books, plays, or movies’ or ‘a discussion between two or more people or groups’ (especially for conflict resolution) (“Dialogue” 479). 

Example sentences: 

  • “Constructive dialogues are a hallmark of healthy relationships.” 
  • “Critics believed the play suffered from shallow dialogues.” 
  • “State representatives held an open dialogue with city residents.” 

Dialogue as a verb

The definition of dialogue as a verb means: 

  1. [no object] ‘to take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem’);  
  2. [with object] ‘to take part in a movie or play’s dialogue’ (479). 

Example sentences: 

  • “Staff members dialogued about a potential worker’s union.” 
  • “We enjoy watching her dialogue on the issues of feminism.” 

Synonyms of dialogue or dialog

Argument, back-and-forth, colloquy, confabulation, conference, consultation, council, deliberation, discussion, palaver, talk. 

Etymology of dialogue and dialog

The word dialogue originates from Middle English “dialog” from Old French dialoge. As outlined by The Oxford Dictionary of World Histories, Old French “dialogue” stems from Latin dialogus through Greek dialogos (via dialegesthai) for ‘converse with’ or ‘speak alternately’ (Chantrell 248).  

The Greek word dialogos consists of dia ‘through’ + legein ‘speak,’ although philosophy students often associate Greek dialegesthai with Plato’s “practice of philosophical dialogue,” according to Cambridge University Press.

Did you know?

The correct prefix for “dialogue” is “dia-” for ‘two’ (dia-logue). English grammar students often confuse “dia-” for “di-,” which means ‘two.’ 

How to use dialogue vs. dialog in a sentence?

To use “dialogue” and “dialog” in a sentence correctly, be sure to remember: 

  1. Dialogue is the preferred spelling for English speakers in the United Kingdom and Canada.
  2. English speakers in the United States use dialog and dialogue interchangeably. 
  3. American grammar sources recommend using dialogue over dialog for formal writing styles.  

Sentence examples for “dialogue

  • “Clearly, it’s hard to write rom-com dialogue that feels spontaneous and emotion-driven…” –– The New York Times
  • “…Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that he cannot “force” dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” –– Tehran Times
  • “Calling for a return to such “civil dialogue,” he acknowledged its difficulty.” –– The Harvard Gazette 

Sentence examples for “dialog

  • “Family and friends need to have a dialog with them, to understand what they really want out of life…” –– Eureka Times-Standard
  • “EU ready to take further action against Turkey if there is no dialog.” –– The Jerusalem Post
  • “By speaking out, he is hoping to spark a dialog and extinguish the stigma that’s kept too many quiet.” –– CBS8

Should we use “dialogue” as a verb?

According to Bryan Garner’s GMEU, the verb dialogue is inferior to its noun counterparts. Garner even goes as far as to call the verb a “gratingly vogue” (or ‘annoyingly popular’) term that appeared near the 1960s.’ 

The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) also supports Garner’s stance on the verb when it means “to engage in an exchange of views” (which is specific to North American English speakers). According to AHD, 80 percent of their 2009 Usage Panel rejected the verb, citing the verb’s “ugliness” and “awkwardness” within sentences. 

But if you’re unswayed from the verb, Garner warns that using dialoguing as a gerund is widely shunned (274). Instead, try sticking with “dialogued” (past participle) or “dialogue” (present tense).   

FAQ: Related to dialogue vs. dialog

What does “dialogue of the deaf” mean?

If someone describes a conversation as a “dialogue of the deaf,” it means either party of a conversation is unresponsive to what the other person says (“Dialogue” 479). English speakers began using this particularly odd expression in the 1970s’ as a translation of French ‘dialogue de sourds’ (Chantrell 248).  

What is a monologue?

A monologue (also spelled as “monolog”) is a noun that means ‘a long speech by one person’ that’s a part of a play, movie, or broadcast program. Additionally, we can define “monologue” as ‘a person’s annoyingly long-winded speech or lecture during a conversation.’ 

Along with contextual similarities, the noun monologue shares a similar origin with “dialogue.” According to Lexico, the word monologue entered the English language from 17th century French, where it originated with Greek monologues for ‘speaking alone.’ 

What does duologue mean?

The word “duologue” is generally a theatrical term that means ‘a conversation between two people only.’ According to GMEU, the term is commonly confused with dialog or dialogue because it’s akin to the term “monologue” (274). But unlike “monologue” or “dialogue,” we never spell “duologue” as “duolog.” 

Additional reading

To learn more literary or theater-related terms, check out The Word Counter’s other posts, such as: 

Test Yourself!

Test how well you understand dialog vs. dialogue with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false: The words “dialog” and “dialogue” are alternative spellings of the same word. 
    a. True
    b. False
  2. The word definition of dialogue or dialog is related to ________________.
    a. A form of conversation 
    b. Computer terminology
    c. Literary work in the form of a conversation
    d. All of the above
  3. “Dialog” is a common, alternative spelling in ________________.
    a. The United Kingdom
    b. Canada
    c. The United States
    d. B and C
  4. True or false: An English speaker from London is more likely to use “dialogue” than someone in New York. 
    a. True
    b. False
  5. The prefix of “dialogue” or “dialog” means ________________.
    a. Between
    b. Across
    c. Two
    d. Speak

Answers

  1. A
  2. D
  3. C
  4. A
  5. B

Sources

  1. The Associated Press. “Dialogue.” The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 2017, Basic Books, Jul 2017, p. 82. 
  2. Beaver, D. “How family, friends can protect traumatic brain injury victims.” Eureka Times-Standard, 6 Oct 2020. 
  3. Chantrell, Glynnis, Ed. “Dialogue.” The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 148.
  4. Dialogue.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2020. 
  5. “Dialogue.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 479.
  6. Dialogue.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  7. Duologue.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  8. Garner, B. “Dialogue; dialog; duolog.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 274.
  9. Monologue.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  10. “Pakistan PM says cannot force dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” Tehran Times, 31 Oct 2020. 
  11. Stanford, E. “How Nora Ephron Set the Bar for Rom-Com Dialogue.” The New York Times, 9 Nov 2018. 
  12. Shotsky, A. “Firefighters’ mental health a concern with strain of wildfires, COVID-19 and civil unrest.CBS8, 18 Sept 2020. Timmerman, D. et al. (2010). “Dialegesthai as a Term of Art: Plato and the Disciplining of Dialectic.” In Classical Greek Rhetorical Theory and the Disciplining of Discourse, pp. 17-42, Cambridge University Press, July 2010.