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What are speech marks: examples and how to use them

From novels to news reports, speech marks are used in all sorts of places! In this guide, we take a look at what they are, where they’re used and some handy rules to keep in mind when using them.

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What are speech marks?

Speech marks are special punctuation marks that show the exact words someone has spoken.

They’re also known as quotation marks and inverted commas, and they always appear in pairs at the beginning and end of what was said.

This is what they look like: “ ”

And here’s an example of some speech marks in action:

“The words that appear between speech marks are the exact words that someone has said,” said the teacher.


Where are speech marks used?

You can find speech marks everywhere. They’re common in stories, news articles, poetry and essays. By showing when someone is speaking, speech marks can help make a text more lively and easier to read.

In a story, speech marks may show which of the characters is speaking. For example, in a children’s book you may read:

“We always eat in the garden,” said Markus.

In a news article, speech marks can be used to show a statement made by an expert. For example:

Economists say that “the increase in production will help the job market to grow”.


When do children learn about speech marks?

Children usually start learning about speech marks around the age of 7.

Before they learn about speech marks, they’ll first be taught about other forms of punctuation, including full stops, commas, exclamation marks and question marks.


How to use speech marks

Being able to tell the difference between direct and indirect speech will help children to effectively use speech marks.

  • Direct speech: shows the exact words that were spoken by a person or character. Speech marks are used at the beginning and end of direct speech to represent what someone has said.
  • Indirect speech: shows what someone said without using their exact words. Speech marks aren’t used in these cases.
  • A reporting clause will let a reader know who said the direct speech and how they said it.

You should always separate direct speech from the reporting clause by a comma.

This may sound a little complicated, but if we look at an example it will all be clearer.

Anne said, “It’s snowing!”

In this example, ‘Anne said’ is the reporting clause, as it lets us know that it was Anne who spoke. This clause is separated by a comma from Anne’s direct speech, which is represented by the text between the speech marks (“It’s snowing!”).

If you’re writing a conversation between multiple people, reporting clauses can also help to clarify who’s speaking, and when.


Speech mark examples

Let’s take a look at some examples of speech marks in actions. These will help us better understand the different uses of speech marks.

Example 1

The teacher said that Anthony’s story was “exceptionally written” and that’s why she read it to the whole class.

In this example, a fragmented part of the teacher’s statement is quoted. This is why the statement isn’t capitalised and has no punctuation before or within the quotation marks.

Example 2

Markus laughed, “Did you see how high I jumped?”

“I know! It was amazing!” Adriana agreed.

In this example, two different people are speaking. The reporting clauses (‘Marcus laughed’ and ‘Adriana agreed’) shows us who is speaking. Each speaker is also placed on a new line to help the reader see that a new person has started speaking.

Example 3

“It’s amazing,” William exclaimed, “there are bubbles everywhere!”

In this example, the statement made by William is separated by the reporting clause. This is a fun way of adding some character to your writing when using speech marks.

Example 4

“Polar bears are my favourite real animals,” Mario said. He then told us about the mythical animals he likes more than polar bears.

This is an interesting example because only part of what Mario said is directly written down. The rest is summarised in indirect speech, and this is why there are no speech marks in the second sentence.


How to use speech marks when writing

If you’d like to quote a phrase or statement, using speech marks will show the reader that these aren’t your original words.

Speech marks are also a great way to give emphasis to certain phrases.

If you’re writing stories, they’ll also help to separate when the different characters are talking. Keep in mind that speech is a faster way of moving a story forward, so be careful about how much you use them!


General rules for using speech marks

There are a few helpful rules to keep in mind when using speech marks:

  • Sentences made by different characters or people will need to be in separate lines.
  • If you’re using a person’s full statement, the punctuation of the sentence will need to be within the quotation marks. This includes full stops, exclamation marks, and question marks.
  • If a reporting clause is before the speech marks, you’ll need a comma to separate the two. This comma will be before the speech marks.
  • If a reporting clause comes in the middle of two quoted sentence parts, you’ll need a comma at the end of the speech marks in the first part and at the beginning of the speech marks in the second part of the sentence.

Final thoughts

Using speech marks is relatively easy once you realise that they’re only used to express what someone said. When writing an essay or story, speech marks can also help to make your writing more interesting and even livelier!

To learn even more about speech marks, why not download the DoodleEnglish app?

It’s filled with interactive exercises exploring the topic, making it the perfect way to put your learning into practice.

Best of all, it’s designed to be used for just 10 minutes a day — and you can try it for absolutely free!

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