Direct Speech

Direct speech, also known as direct discourse, relays the exact words spoken. One way to tell when direct speech is used is to look for quotation marks. Another useful indicator is the presence of a reporting verb or a signal phrase.

What is Direct Speech?

If you’re looking for a straightforward definition of direct speech, you’re in the right place. So put, direct speech is a sentence where the exact words spoken are written in speech marks, quotation marks, or inverted commas.

Direct Speech can be used in multiple written texts. For example, it is widely used in fiction, which can help readers understand characters better.

Direct Speech Examples

If you’re struggling to picture how direct speech might work, here are some examples to help you get the hang of it.

“What are your plans for tonight?” Said Lisa.

“I don’t have any!” Said, Janine

“Do you fancy going out for a meal?” Said Alex.

The Rules of Direct Speech

Children typically begin to learn about direct speech when they are seven to eight. At this time, kids will learn what direct speech is, why it is used, and what general rules they should follow. Here are some of the main reasons why writers use natural speech.

  • It can be beneficial for expanding on the development of characters in a story. This is because, by showing the things that people say and the ways that they tell them, readers will learn more about their personalities.
  • It can also be beneficial for driving the plot in stories.

Several fundamental rules must be followed when writing a direct speech. Kids must master these rules to effectively and correctly use direct speech. Here is a list of the rules and some direct speech examples to help you get the hang of it.

Speech Marks

In direct speech, punctuation separates the spoken words, or dialogue, from the rest of the text. Therefore, the words directly spoken by a character, i.e., the direct speech, should be placed inside speech marks.

For example:

“Can I ask you a question?” Emily inquired.

“I’m far too tired to play football today,” yawned Sam.

There is some nuance with this direct speech rule: some writers use double speech marks, and some use single speech marks. However, don’t be thrown off by this, as both are perfectly fine!

The only rule is to decide which type of speech marks you want to use and ensure consistency throughout your work. Therefore, you shouldn’t start your work using single speech marks and end it using double ones.

A New Speaker = A New Line

Another rule that must be followed when using direct speech is taking a new line each time a new person speaks. Direct speech is designed to help the reader follow the dialogue in a text. This is why it is so important to structure it. To help the reader follow who precisely is speaking, you must take a new line for each new speaker.

For example:

“I didn’t see you at school today,” said Hannah concernedly.

“I wasn’t feeling very well, so I took the day off sick,” explained Tom.

“You poor thing! I hope you’re feeling better tomorrow,” Hannah remarked, hugging her friend.

“Me too,” Tom pouted.

It’s also important to note that each new line of direct speech should start with a capital letter.

Reporting Clauses

A reporting clause occurs after the direct speech and indicates to the reader who is speaking.

For example:

“How was your holiday?” asked Mrs. Anderson.

In the example above, the reporting clause, ‘asked Mrs. Anderson’, tells us who is speaking in the text. Reporting clauses are not always necessary if it is clear who is speaking. This is why reporting clauses are often dropped in a text once a conversation between characters gets going.

Punctuation Inside Speech Marks

A punctuation mark should always be at the end of each direct speech section. If there is no reporting clause, this punctuation mark will likely be a complete stop, question mark, or exclamation mark.

For example:

“Help! I can’t swim!”

“Hello there, Amy. Can I help you?”

On the other hand, if there is a reporting clause, the punctuation mark will likely be a comma before the final speech marks.

For example:

“I am going to walk home with Mary after school,” Lisa explained.

Then, after the reporting clause, there tends to be a complete stop. This may come later on, however, if the sentence continues after the reporting clause.

For example:

“My mum said we can walk home together,” said Lisa as she packed her school bag.

Moving the reporting clause

Sometimes, the reporting clause is placed in the middle of a direct speech.

For example:

“I am excited to play hockey at the weekend,” said James, “My favorite instructor will be there.”

Even in this instance, you will note that the punctuation still goes inside the speech marks of the first section.

After the reporting clause, a punctuation mark must be used before the second set of direct speech starts. The punctuation mark should be a comma if the reporting clause is in the middle of a sentence. However, if the reporting clause is between two separate speech sentences, it should be a complete stop.

Reported Speech

The rules above are for punctuating direct speech, but we don’t need to use speech marks when punctuating reported speech.

Reported speech (sometimes known as indirect speech) is when we summarise or reword the address instead of quoting the direct words spoken by a person. For example:

Mrs. Wood claimed it had been a tough year for businesses across the country and pledged to keep her staff well-informed of any changes.

When punctuating reported speech, we only need to punctuate the sentence as we would any other sentence, without worrying about using any specific speech punctuation.

When do Children begin to learn about Direct Speech?

Children will begin to learn about Direct Speech in their third year of primary education. Teachers of Lower Key Stage 2 will usually outline the general rules of Direct Speech, which include:

  • speech is opened with quotation marks, speech marks, or inverted commas
  • each line of speech will start with a capital letter
  • a reporting clause is used at the end of the sentence
  • a full stop is placed at the end of the reporting clause
  • each new character’s speech should begin on a new line
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