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Tips for Formatting Speech


A few weeks ago we looked at how to use commas in direct speech. This week, let’s take a look at the other things to be aware of when formatting speech correctly.

Before we begin, let’s remind ourselves on the differences between direct speech and reported speech:

  • The term direct speech refers to when the actual words of a speaker are quoted in the text.

    For example:
    • ‘I love you,’ he said.

  • Reported speech (also known as indirect speech) refers to when someone’s words are described rather than quoted.

    For example:
    • He told her he loved her.

This article will focus on how to correctly punctuate direct speech. There are no special rules to bear in mind when writing reported speech.

  • In British English, you should represent direct speech by using a single inverted comma on either side of the spoken words.

    For example:
    • I love you, he said

In American English, double inverted commas are more commonly used.

  • For example:
    • I love you, he said
  • Whenever a new person speaks, begin a new paragraph.

    For example:
    • They stared longingly at each other.
      ‘I love you,’ he said.
      ‘I love you too!’

  • Begin the speech with a capital letter.

    For example:
    • Do you love me?’ he said.

  • To mark the end of someone’s speech, use a comma, full stop, exclamation mark, or question mark before the closing inverted comma. If the speech follows an attribution to who is speaking, introduce the speech with a comma.

    For example:
    • ‘Do you love me?’ he said.
      She smiled at him and replied, ‘Of course I do!
      ‘Oh darling,’ he said, ‘I’ve never thought I could be this happy.’

You can read more about using commas in direct speech here.

If you found this article useful, why not check out some of our other posts?

Have a great week!


25 Apr 2017
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