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How to add direct speech, indirect speech, and interior monologue to your text.

A commonly asked question by people in the process of writing stories or by those in the editing process and those who want to make sure everything is correct before publishing is, 'How do I add dialogue?'


When it comes to speech, there are three types you can use in your writing. These are indirect speech, direct speech, and interior monologue. To ensure your reader understands what the narrator is trying to say, you need to use certain writing tools. Some of these are quotation marks, the use of 'he said, she said, they said', and changing font styles.


But first...


What is direct speech?

Direct speech is when you copy someone's words to a T*. With direct speech, you are quoting a person. Dialogue between characters in novels falls under this category.


Example: Mellie said, 'My neighbours have puppies.'


What is indirect speech?

Indirect speech is when you are quoting a person, but you are not using their exact words.


Example: Mellie said that her neighbours have puppies.


What is interior monologue?

Interior monologue is the 'written representation of a character's inner thoughts, impressions, and memories as if directly overheard'. This can be conveyed as a direct representation of what the character is thinking, using the same logic and punctuation as in the overall text (the popular choice in novels), or it can be conveyed in a 'special technique emphasising continuous "flow" by abandoning strict logic, syntax, and punctuation'.


Example: Frankie thought, 'Mellie's neighbours have puppies. So cute.'


Source: Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, 2015


How to add your chosen type of speech to your text


As an author, you are in charge of how you wish to convey your character's speech. Sometimes, a character's internal struggles really make the story come to life. Unspoken motivations can be the key to your scene. But how do you write these down?


Conventions may be different depending on the audience you are writing for. I have broken these conventions down to the two most popular writing styles, those exercised in the UK and the US.


Please note: you may have noticed that most authors/writers capitalise the first letter of the first word of a quote when it is not the first word in the sentence. This convention emphasises the quotation and makes it stand out from the regular narrative. However, not everyone prefers this style, and there is some artistic leeway in publishing, so have a think and go with your preference.


United Kingdom

Direct speech

There are three ways to punctuate/format direct speech. Which convention you use depends on the type of quotation.

  1. Full quotation: all the original punctuation marks go INSIDE single quotation marks. Example: The weatherman's report states, 'The weather outside will be horrifying. It's going to be raining cats and dogs.'

  2. Partial quotation: as the partial quote is part of a sentence, the single (closing) quotation mark goes BEFORE the sentence punctuation, whether this is a comma or a full stop, etc. Example: This morning, the weatherman reported that it would be 'raining cats and dogs'. We better bring an umbrella.

  3. Dialogue: by convention, each speaker's speech is put on a new line and indented. Sometimes, when quotes are part of a larger scene/sentence, they do not follow this convention (see b). (As a general rule, in publishing, the first line of a new paragraph is indented. Dialogue follows this convention.) Dialogue is treated as a full quotation; hence, the closing punctuation mark of the quote goes INSIDE the closing single quotation mark. Examples:

    1. 'No, you didn't!' 'Yes, I did.'

    2. She said, 'I didn't do it.' To which I said, 'Yes, you did.'

    3. She said, 'Why did you do that?' He said, 'Do what?'

Indirect speech

Interior monologue


United States of America

Direct speech

There are two ways to punctuate/format direct speech. Which convention you use depends on the type of quote.

  1. Full/partial quotation: all the punctuation marks go INSIDE double quotation marks. Example:

    1. The weatherman's report states, "The weather outside will be horrifying. It's going to be raining cats and dogs."

    2. This morning, the weatherman reported that it would be "raining cats and dogs." We better bring an umbrella.

  2. Dialogue: by convention, each speaker's speech is sandwiched between double quotation marks, put on a new line, and indented. Sometimes, when quotations are part of a larger scene/sentence, they do not follow this convention (see b). (As a general rule, in publishing, the first line of a new paragraph is indented. Dialogue follows this convention.) Examples:

    1. "No, you didn't!" "Yes, I did."

    2. She said, "I didn't do it." To which I said, "Yes, you did."

    3. She said, "Why did you do that?" He said, "Do what?"

Indirect speech

Interior monologue

What if you have a quotation inside a quotation?

In this case, you use the same punctuation rules as above, BUT you use a different quotation mark for the 'inside quotation'.


If you are in the UK and you are using single quotation marks, you use double quotation marks INSIDE the quotation:


Example: Tobbie said, 'You know what Charles said this morning? He screeched, "Stupid robot!" Imagine that.'


If you are in the US and you are using double quotation marks, you use single quotation marks INSIDE the quotation:


Example: Tobbie said, "You know what Charles said this morning? He screeched, 'Stupid robot!' Imagine that."

Don't forget, YOU ARE IN CHARGE of your writing. In the end, you choose how you want your story to be told and the appearance of it, including punctuation conventions, etc.

*To a T: informal representation of exactly; to perfection. (Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, 2020)


Used reference books:

New Hart's Rules, 2015 (UK)

Chicago Manual of Style, seventeenth edition, 2017 (US)

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