Identifying and using direct and indirect speech

Identifying and using direct and indirect speech. Direct and reported speech are two different ways to say what someone else said.

Direct speech

In direct speech, we quote the exact words that were spoken. We put quotation marks around what was said and add a speech tag such as he said “or ” “she asked” either before or after the .3quote. Quoting around dialogue is the most common use of quotation marks in formal writing. Quotes around direct quotations or a person's exact words are enclosed with quotation marks to indicate someone else’s words and includes printed words or spoken words.

1. Each set of direct quotes receives its own set of quotation marks.

2. Use a capital letter at the beginning of each direct quotation unless the quotation is only part of a sentence.

3. When quotations are interrupted mid-way through the sentence, do not begin the second part of the sentence with a capital.

4.When stating who is being quoted, use a comma after the dialogue tag and before the quotation marks.

5. When you are rephrasing a quoted passage, do not use quotation marks.

6. Each new direct quote begins a new paragraph even if it's short. * Paul said, “I would rather go to the city on Friday night because they are having a great play in the park.”

  • Paul stated that he, “would rather go to the city on Friday night” because of a show in the park.
  • “He loves to see plays,“ Elizabeth said, “especially outside.”

7. Quotation Within a Quotation

  • Use single quotation marks when quoting inside a quote. Note: at the end of this example is a single quote and a double quote.
  • The professor explained, “I love the quote by Mark Twain that said, 'Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.'”

8. When quoting long passages, more than four typed lines, indent two tabs and do not use quotation marks. When quoting poetry that is three lines or longer, indent to the same specifications as a long passage. The poem should be quoted as the poet wrote it.

Reported speech

Reported speech is another way of saying what someone said, but without quotation marks. Reported speech doesn't repeat the words exactly as they were spoken. It changes the tense of all the verbs that were used.

The resources found at (Tes Connect – requires free membership) clarifies and provides resources.

Putting speech marks in their place shows how to use speech marks correctly. Students can test their knowledge of using speech marks by doing the interactive quiz in the resource.

Explicitly teaching the metalanguage of sentences assists students to look for, be aware of and use punctuation markers in sentences. Opportunities to put elements together to form a coherent whole in contextual and meaningful activities should be provided so that students can practise, verbalise and transfer skills to new situations.

Punctuation helps to read and make sense of what is written. It is vital in the development of reading comprehension and provides the link between spoken like language and the more formal written language.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: exploring authentic texts

Students examine texts they are currently studying and identify and then replace direct for indirect and vice versa. During these activities it is essential that students explore and justify an author’s purpose for writing the texts the way they are written. (The use of the first person in narrative is often perceived as less written like and less formal. More sophisticated writing moves into the third person.)

Activity 2: I didn't get that!

Students are asked a question such as “Elizabeth, how did you get to school?” Elizabeth will answer for example I come by car. The teacher turns to another student and says “I didn’t get that. What did Elizabeth say?” Student begins answer by saying, “Elizabeth said she...”.

Activity 3: chain reports

Students quietly say a sentence with an indirect speech component to another student. That student then quietly says the sentence in the reverse form. This is repeated around the class. If students can’t do so they are now the note takers and write down the sentences as they are spoken.

Activity 4: clarifications

The class teacher writes several sentences on the board and then narrates a prepared anecdote (fictional). The facts in the anecdote and those on the board are contradictory to those on the board. Students must interrupt with the statement “Excuse me but didn’t you say that ...?” (students need to include the information from the narrated anecdote and the facts on the board).

For example, the teacher wrote on the board:

  • I live in a big house
  • I’m married
  • I don’t have any children.

Then beginning the narrative says:

T: Well, the other day I was in my flat. It’s a small flat in the city centre ...

S: Excuse me; didn’t you say you lived in a big house?

T: Ah yes, I did say that. So, it was in my big house. My boyfriend was at work ...

S: Excuse me; didn’t you say you were married? etc.

Variation: Students prepare and write both the board statements and the narratives to share.

Activity 5: famous interview

The class is divided into groups. Each group decides on a famous person (living or dead) that they will interview.

  • one student from each group will be the famous person
  • all famous people come to the front of the room to be interviewed by the rest of the class who are now journalists
  • journalists spend a few minutes composing some interview questions
  • the questions are asked and answered
  • all students (including the famous people) write a report about the interview which must include at least two things from the interview and reported as well as indirect speech
  • students in pairs compare and justify their reporting.

Activity 6: pre-assessment

To determine students’ current understanding of grammatical / punctuation technical language a quiz, such as the one here could be given, either in small groups, so the teacher can note individual responses, or as an individual assessment. While this isn’t a reading assessment older students should be able to read the sentences. Item selection will depend on the stage of the students (see scope and sequence from the syllabus).

Example of a grammatical / punctuation technical language quiz
1. You write a comma when you take a breathT F
2. You write a colon before a listT F
3. You write a full stop after a thoughtT F
4. A letter S should always have an apostrophe before it T F
5. A full stop should be written after an independent clauseT F
6. "Sydney" and other important words should always be capitalised T F
7. Capital letters always go at the beginning of a lineT F
8. Full stops always go at the end of a lineT F

Activity 7: punctuation posters for more than just direct / indirect speech

These posters can be downloaded from Tes Connect. This is free to join and has wonderful resources.

Students firstly orally produce a sentence that demonstrates the marker in the poster, and then write (again either joint construction or independently) the ‘best’ one for the day. These are displayed with the poster and changed daily.

Examples of punctuation posters


Australian curriculum reference

ACELA1494: Investigate how quoted (direct) and reported (indirect) speech work in different types of text.

NSW syllabus reference

EN2-9B: Uses effective and accurate sentence structure, grammatical features, punctuation conventions and vocabulary relevant to the type of text when responding to and composing text.

NSW literacy continuum reference

WRIC10M6: Aspects of writing, Cluster 10, Marker 6: Uses sentence and  simple punctuation correctly.

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