A parent’s guide to punctuation! (Part 2) Speech punctuation and paragraphs

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Speech Punctuation

In written text, when someone says something and we are replicating exactly what they say (direct speech), we use speech marks, also known as inverted commas or quotation marks. This punctuation shows us which bit of text was spoken and which was not.

1. “I’m hungry!” said Omar.

In this example, the spoken words are “I’m hungry!” and are therefore shown with speech marks. The punctuation that goes with that statement also goes inside the speech marks.

2. “What’s that?” asked Jen.

3. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s a UFO!” suggested Fred.

The reporting clause (‘said Omar’, ‘asked Jen’, ‘suggested Fred’) shows us who spoke the words. This can come at the start of the line, the end, or we can break the speech up and put it in the middle.

4. Meg asked, “What’s for dinner?”

5. “Oh dear,” sighed Mum. “I knew I’d forgotten something!”

Notice that when the reporting clause comes at the beginning or in the middle of the line, it is separated by a comma. When there is a new speaker, the speech starts on a new line.

Speech is always started with a capital letter, even when it comes after the reporting clause (see example 4). Indirect speech is used when we tell someone the gist of what was said, without writing out the comment in full.

6. Jonathan said he was excited.

With indirect speech, no speech punctuation is required.  


Paragraphing is usually introduced in Year 3 and are used to organise writing. A paragraph is a group of one or more sentences and is separated from other paragraphs with a line between them and/or an indent to the left.

Paragraphs are used both in fiction and non-fiction. In fiction writing, a new paragraph is needed when we change the person, place, time or topic. In non-fiction, paragraphs are usually split by topics. In school, children will often be given story maps or story mountains to help them plan their work: these help the children to organise the structure.

At the beginning, the children will set the scene as the introduction. They will then proceed to build suspense, until the action happens. They will then resolve the issue that the character faced. This helps children to identify what the main topic sentences for each paragraph will be (a sentence which lets us know what that paragraph is about).  


Article by Emma Hall

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