For example:

"Move!" I immediately side stepped him.



I immediately side stepped him.

I know a new line of paragraph is needed for each speaker, but does the same rule apply in this instance?

  • 3
    This isn't entirely clear. Is the same person saying "Move!" and then sidestepping, or are these two different characters, one saying "Move!" and the other sidestepping? I answered both, just in case. – Amadeus Oct 23 '19 at 16:30
  • Hi N.Houghton, welcome to writing.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. – linksassin Oct 23 '19 at 23:07

It depends on who said "Move!". If it is the person sidestepping, then no. But then you should have written "Move!" I said, and immediately sidestepped him.

if the person sidestepping is responding to somebody else that said "Move!", which appears to be the case here, then YES, you need a new paragraph.

It is fine to combine a single character's speech and action on the same line if they occur close in time, either simultaneously or sequentially.

But not one character's speech and another character's actions.

  • I apologise for not making my question clear and concise, I was in a rush for an answer as I had a mind blank. Your answer certainly helped, thank you. – N.Houghton Oct 24 '19 at 6:25
  • 1
    I agree 100% with this answer, and 150% with the last line. And yet I've seen dozens of authors mixing actions and speech from different characters in the same paragraph. – Mindwin Oct 28 '19 at 18:11

Yes. There're a couple of things to unpack here. The general rule is: a new subject requires a new paragraph. A character or person qualifies as a new subject.

It is important to remember: dialogue is not limited to speech. More broadly, dialogue is an exchange of communication. e.g.:

Peter crept in through the front door.

Dad switched on the hall light. "What time to you call this?"

Peter lowered his eyes but made no reply.

Mom, arms folded, looked on from the top of the stairs.

"I'm asking you a question, boy!" growled Dad.

Peter raised his head and locked eyes with his father. "If you weren't such a tight-ass I could have a watch."

THWACK! A sharp backhand knocked Peter to the ground.

Mom pointed the Glock at Dad. "That's enough."

  • That escalated quickly. – Gloweye Oct 24 '19 at 9:56

I see nothing wrong with this, provided the dialogue and the responding action flow together neatly. Your example is a bit stilted, but if you connect them like so:

"Move!" he barked, and I immediately stepped aside.

...that flows a lot better, in my opinion.

This also works if Character A says something, Character B reacts, and then Character A says something else in response to the reaction. Something like:

"Move!" he barked. I immediately stepped aside, and he brushed past me with a slightly more polite, "Thank you."

If, however, Character B is the next character to speak, you should start a new paragraph in order to link their action with their consequent dialogue:


I immediately stepped aside, and he brushed past me without saying a word. "You're welcome," I muttered sarcastically.


I think this is mostly a pacing issue. If "Move!" is part of a series of commands, then the first could be preferable:

"Move!" I immediately side stepped him.

"Wait!" I leaned forward, rocking on my toes

"Now!" I ran forward with all the speed I could muster

  • Printer Dave Please see the guideline to know more about answering here. – Prasad_Joshi Oct 25 '19 at 5:15

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