Fascinating Facts


Direct Speech

Information can be conveyed through direct or indirect speech. Consider these examples:

Indirect Speech

When I asked Khalil, our guide, about the rifle strapped to the saddle of his camel, he told me not to worry. He said it was just a precaution. He explained that it was prudent to carry a weapon in case we ran into bandits.

Direct Speech

As we headed off into the desert, I asked Khalil about the rifle strapped to the saddle of his camel.

"Not to worry, my friend," he said with a gap-toothed grin. "It's just a . . . how do you say . . . precaution."

"A precaution?" I asked, suddenly alarmed. I had assumed that he used the rifle to hunt rabbits or some other small game, but now I realized that he carried it defensively. "A precaution against what?"

"Bandits," replied Khalil. "But no worry, my friend. My rifle scare them away. Besides, you don't look like a tourist. No bandit risk his life to kidnap you."

I now understood why Khalil had asked me to put on a traditional djellaba. From a distance, I might indeed be mistaken for a native. But I couldn't help but wonder: Would Khalil risk his own life in order to save me from bandits?

Direct speech is not necessarily better than indirect speech. In a letter to a friend (as opposed to a short story), it might be perfectly natural to sum up somebody's words in a sentence or two.

That said, learning how to properly punctuate direct speech is one of the skills that I expect every 6th grader to learn by the end of the year, so when I see it, I'm pleased.

Key Point: Look for opportunities to include direct speech in your letters.

In the unit called Intermediate Writing Skills, there are lessons on how to punctuate and format dialogue. In case you have not yet completed that unit, here is a very short mini-lesson, a sample dialogue that you can use as a reference:

Formatting Direct Speech

Study the sample dialogue below.

  • Carefully note the location of all punctuation marks.
  • Remember to insert a paragraph break (a blank line) between each speaker!

Bill said, “You have to tell him how you feel."

“I can't," Sally said. "It will ruin the wedding."

Bill stood up abruptly. “If you don't tell him, I will. He has a right to know."

Instructions for the Quiz

For each question, decide if the sentence is direct speech or indirect speech.