light bulbs signifying speech marks

Speech Marks

Introduction

Writers use speech marks to indicate the exact words that someone has spoken or written. For instance, if you were writing a story and one of the characters said “I love ice cream”, you would use speech marks to show that those were the character’s exact words. It would look like this:

“Hey,” said Sarah, “I love ice cream!”

Direct speech is an effective way to get the reader to hear the character’s voice and learn more about their personality. When you are writing your own stories, don’t forget to use speech marks to signal the start of the quotation and closing speech marks at the end.

Exercise One

Correct the following sentences by inserting the speech marks and any other punctuation marks needed.

  1. Hello, said the man.
  2. What are you doing? said Fred.
  3. Stop! shouted the policeman.
  4. Wait a minute, said Ellen. Don’t I know you from somewhere?
  5. I know what we’ll do, said Alana. We’ll go to the pictures.
  6. You look tired said Keith
  7. Can I come in asked the man
  8. No screamed the man
  9. Come here said Grandma I want to see how much you have grown
  10. Is that my bag asked Danielle I thought I’d lost it
  11. Run shouted Rebecca The dog is after us
  12. I know what I want for my birthday said Tina A brand new car
  13. What is your name asked the teacher.
  14. Paul said you must be joking.
  15. Jill asked is tea ready.
  16. I am so hungry moaned Aisling I could eat a horse.
  17. What’s the score wondered Helen.
  18. Do you know where Bangor is asked the policeman.
  19. The policeman said don’t do that again.
  20. What’s for tea moaned the children we are hungry.
  21. Come on you reds shouted the fans.
  22. Mother asked where are you going?
  23. I am going to the park said Peter.
  24. Susan said to me I am hungry.
  25. So am I replied Kevin.

Exercise Two

The answers to the first exercise are available at the end of this page. Compare the use of speech marks in those responses to your own and think about why there are any differences.

In your own words and based on the answers to first task, write out rules you can follow to make sure you use direct speech correctly in your own writing. Do the speech marks appear before or after the comma at the end of the character’s words? Why do some words in the middle of sentence start with a capital letter?

Exercise Three

Now you have a better understanding of speech marks, correct the following sentences by inserting any punctuation where needed.

  1. The policewoman asked what is your name?
  2. Bethany Hirst answered the girl.
  3. Will you take me across the road? asked the old man.
  4. Certainly said the kind lady.
  5. Please move along the bus said the driver.
  6. A return ticket to Dundonald please asked the girl.
  7. Aunt Sally asked Uncle Joe how are you?
  8. I am very well thank you he replied.
  9. Hello, said my mum when I came home from school.
  10. What time is it? asked John.
  11. Stop talking, shouted the teacher.
  12. The man in the shop said, Do you need any help?
  13. Can you go to the shop? asked Dad. Yes, I replied.
  14. The old lady said, Can you help me cross the road?
  15. Not I, grunted the pig.
  16. The teacher said, Please tidy your books away.
  17. Can you get me a pencil, please? asked Rajan.
  18. Please be quiet, whispered the librarian.
  19. The little girl said, Please may I have an apple?
  20. The boy said, I would like to go home now.
  21. The lady asked, why do you want to go so soon?
  22. I don’t feel very well, the boy replied.
  23. The lady whispered, are you missing your mum?
  24. The boy looked at her and muttered, you won’t tell anyone will you?
  25. The lady winked and answered, of course not silly.

Conclusion

Remember to use speech marks whenever you want to show exactly what someone said or wrote. If you want to include a quotation from a book, you would also use speech marks: in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, Hagrid tells Harry, “You’re a wizard, Harry.”

However, you should try our inverted commas exercises to explore the difference between those punctuation marks and speech marks in British English.

  1. “Hello,” said the man.
  2. “What are you doing?” said Fred.
  3. “Stop!” shouted the policeman.
  4. “Wait a minute,” said Ellen. “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
  5. “I know what we’ll do,” said Alana. “We’ll go to the pictures.”
  6. “You look tired,” said Keith.
  7. “Can I come in?” asked the man.
  8. “No!” screamed the man.
  9. “Come here,” said Grandma, “I want to see how much you have grown.”
  10. “Is that my bag?” asked Danielle. “I thought I’d lost it.”
  11. “Run!” shouted Rebecca. “The dog is after us!”
  12. “I know what I want for my birthday,” said Tina. “A brand-new car!”
  13. “What is your name?” asked the teacher.
  14. Paul said, “You must be joking.”
  15. Jill asked, “Is tea ready.”
  16. “I am so hungry,” moaned Aisling, “I could eat a horse.”
  17. “What’s the score?” wondered Helen.
  18. “Do you know where Bangor is?” asked the policeman.
  19. The policeman said, “Don’t do that again.”
  20. “What’s for tea?” moaned the children. “We are hungry.”
  21. “Come on you reds!” shouted the fans.
  22. Mother asked, “Where are you going?”
  23. “I am going to the park,” said Peter.
  24. Susan said to me, “I am hungry.”
  25. “So am I,” replied Kevin.
  • The policewoman asked, “What is your name?”
  • “Bethany Hirst,” answered the girl.
  • “Will you take me across the road?” asked the old man.
  • “Certainly,” said the kind lady.
  • “Please move along the bus,” said the driver.
  • “A return ticket to Dundonald, please,” asked the girl.
  • Aunt Sally asked Uncle Joe, “How are you?”
  • “I am very well, thank you,” he replied.
  • “Hello,” said my mum when I came home from school.
  • “What time is it?” asked John.
  • “Stop talking,” shouted the teacher.
  • The man in the shop said, “Do you need any help?”
  • “Can you go to the shop?” asked Dad. “Yes, I replied.”
  • The old lady said, “Can you help me cross the road?”
  • “Not I,” grunted the pig.
  • The teacher said, “Please tidy your books away.”
  • “Can you get me a pencil, please?” asked Rajan.
  • “Please be quiet,” whispered the librarian.
  • The little girl said, “Please may I have an apple?”
  • The boy said, “I would like to go home now.”
  • The lady asked, “Why do you want to go so soon?”
  • “I don’t feel very well,” the boy replied.
  • The lady whispered, “Are you missing your mum?”
  • The boy looked at her and muttered, “You won’t tell anyone will you?”
  • The lady winked and answered, “Of course not, silly.”

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    Thanks for reading!