Punctuation

Improve your child's punctuation

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How to Use Speech Marks Correctly

As your child’s story writing ability improves, it’s important they learn how to use speech marks to punctuate speech throughout their stories! Using speech marks correctly in story writing is crucial in order for the reader to completely understand the story. Without proper use, readers may not understand when a character is speaking, which character is speaking, or may be distracted by the incorrect use of speech marks. Punctuation can help tell a story, just like words can! This article will help your child learn how to punctuate speech in the stories they write.

What are speech marks?

Speech marks are the punctuation marks that are used when writing dialogue, in order to identify speech within a piece of writing. They are also known as quotation marks. Speech marks are also used in writing to indicate title names, but our exercises today will focus on using them to show dialogue.

How do you use speech marks?

Speech marks are used to indicate direct speech and should go before and after the words being spoken by a character. Additionally, the use of other punctuation marks will still be necessary. A simple example would be as follows:

  • That ice cream was delicious! exclaimed Grudge the Bear.

Notice how in the above example, we still use an exclamation point at the end of Grudge’s statement to express that he was excited about how delicious his ice cream was! When using a question mark in speech, we punctuate the speech marks the same way:

  • Will you go to the movies with me later? asked Grudge the Bear.

In other instances, when indicating speech that would normally have a period to end the sentence, we replace the period with a comma:

  • I’m going to visit my grandmother later, explained Grudge the Bear.

If you’d like to introduce the character before their dialogue by moving the dialogue tag to the front of the speech, you will add a comma after the dialogue tag. In that case, you can end the speech with a period, just as you would without speech marks:

  • Grudge the Bear explained, I’m going to visit my grandmother later.

Finally, before your child can get started with the activities we’ve provided to help them use speech marks, it’s important to know the answer to this question: what happens when a new speaker is introduced? We need to start a new line to distinguish between speakers! For example, what if we have Florence Flamingo respond to Grudge’s explanation:

  • Grudge the Bear explained, I’m going to visit my grandmother later.
  • I hope you have fun! Tell your grandmother I say hello! said Florence Flamingo.

Notice how because we introduced a new speaker, we need to also introduce a new line. This helps our story look more organized and it makes it easier for our readers to know who is speaking and when!

Activity & Resource

Now that we have provided different examples to demonstrate how speech marks should be correctly used to show dialogue, your child can get started with putting our tips into practice! We’ve created several worksheets that are free to download below. Practice makes perfect!

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