The Grammarphobia Blog

Is it OK to “dialogue”?

Q: I’m an associate at a law firm and one of the partners is always asking me to dialogue. Is it OK to use “dialogue” as a verb?

A: No, it’s not OK, though I wouldn’t tell the partner about it. Let him dialogue all he wants, but you should talk, chat, gossip, speak, shoot the breeze, and so on.

The verb “dialogue,” meaning to have a conversation, is considered bureaucratese in modern English. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says 98 percent of its Usage Panel is opposed to using “dialogue” this way.

That said, I should note that the usage was once perfectly acceptable. We can find examples in Shakespeare (“Dost Dialogue with thy shadow?”), Richardson (“Thus foolishly dialogued I with my Heart”), Coleridge (“…the showman contrives to dialogue without any skill in ventriloquism”), and other writers.

It appears that “to dialogue” is making a comeback these days, but you shouldn’t encourage it. Not unless you want to sound like a stuffed shirt!

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