Quoted or Direct Speech

This page was first published on the 11th of March, 2017 and last updated on the 11th of March, 2017 by Patrick Carpen.

Learn the rules for using direct speech, which is also called quoted speech.

Quoted speech is also called direct speech. We may call it direct speech because it represents speech exactly as it came out of the mouth of the speaker: not put in the writer’s own words. We may call it quoted speech because we are “quoting” what the speaker said exactly as he or she said it.

Quoted or direct speech is marked off by “quotation marks”. Quoted speech or direct speech enlivens writing. Quoted speech or direct speech also makes writing more funny and enjoyable. This is especially true when the characters are speaking a dialect: an informal version of an official language familiar to a particular region.

Quoted speech or direct speech helps with characterization. It helps paint a brighter picture of the person who speaks it. Quoted speech or direct speech may give a greater insight into a character’s personality and attitudes.

Quoted speech or direct speech is much more powerful than reported speech or indirect speech.

Make your writing come alive. Use quoted speech, also called direct speech. Below is an excerpt containing quoted or direct speech, taken from the classic novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas.”

“We accept,” I replied.  “Only, I’ll ask your permission, sir, to address a question to you, just one.”

“Go ahead, sir.”

“You said we’d be free aboard your vessel?”

“Completely.”

“Then I would ask what you mean by this freedom.”

“Why, the freedom to come, go, see, and even closely observe everything happening here–except under certain rare circumstances–in short, the freedom we ourselves enjoy, my companions and I.”

It was obvious that we did not understand each other.

“Pardon me, sir,” I went on, “but that’s merely the freedom

that every prisoner has, the freedom to pace his cell!

That’s not enough for us.”

“Nevertheless, it will have to do!”

“What!  We must give up seeing our homeland, friends, and relatives ever again?”

“Yes, sir.  But giving up that intolerable earthly yoke that some men call freedom is perhaps less painful than you think!”

“By thunder!”  Ned Land shouted.  “I’ll never promise I won’t try getting out of here!”

“I didn’t ask for such a promise, Mr. Land,” the commander replied coldly.

“Sir,” I replied, flaring up in spite of myself, “you’re taking unfair advantage of us!  This is sheer cruelty!”

“No, sir, it’s an act of mercy!  You’re my prisoners of war! I’ve cared for you when, with a single word, I could plunge you back into the ocean depths!  You attacked me!  You’ve just stumbled on a secret no living man must probe, the secret of my entire existence! Do you think I’ll send you back to a world that must know nothing more of me?  Never!  By keeping you on board, it isn’t you whom I care for, it’s me!”

These words indicated that the commander pursued a policyim pervious to arguments.

“Then, sir,” I went on, “you give us, quite simply, a choice between life and death?”

“Quite simply.”

“My friends,” I said, “to a question couched in these terms, our answer can be taken for granted.  But no solemn promises bind us to the commander of this vessel.”

“None, sir,” the stranger replied.

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