- Leave out the ums, ahs, and hmmms. Yes, we talk like that, but reading it on the page just slows down the story and takes the reader out of the moment. If you really want to slow the pace of your dialogue, add character movements or other descriptions (but not too many).
- Get to the point. When we greet someone, we usually start with a hi, and ask how that person is doing, and then comment on their outfit or the weather or any number of inane topics that have nothing to do with the reason we're seeing it each. Don't bog down your story with a bunch of junk. Make sure your dialogue moves your story forward.
- Leave out the extra punctuation. Your character may be mad as all heck and yelling at the top her lungs, but that doesn't mean you need an exclamation point to drive that emotion. Your story should have set the scene so the reader knows exactly how the character is speaking.
- Please, please, please - use "said." There are many, many other ways to add flavor to the story without your character squeaking, obfuscating, reeling, cringing, or any other impossible way to speak a word.
- Try it like a play. There's nothing like hearing the words out loud to let you know if you hit the mark. If you take the extra step and write it like an actual stage play, you'll find the spots where narrative is either needed or getting in the way, too.
Sometimes the most important messages need to come straight from your character. Don't avoid dialogue just because it's hard. Using these tips will hopefully steer you toward the best conversation of your character's life.