If there’s one thing that absolutely drives me crazy when editing a manuscript or reading a book it’s the overuse of the word “said.” As I mentioned in a previous post about exclamation points, depending on what is happening in a particular scene, the dialogue should paint a vivid picture and bring the characters’ unique personalities and motivations to life.
In the case of an exclamation point, if a character is screaming in response to a stressful situation it’s perfectly OK to end his or her sentence with a ! to drive the point home.
Of course, you don’t want to use exclamation points excessively. This principle also applies to the word “said.”
While “said” is a perfectly acceptable, valid word in the English language, that same language gives us an almost endless supply of alternatives. Many times, these alternatives are in fact superior to the word “said” which can be dull, bland, and inadequate depending on the scene unfolding in the book. If there’s significant action taking place or heated conversation between two characters for example, “said” just doesn’t cut it — even if grammatically correct.
In the interest of compelling reading and writing, here’s a short list of alternatives. Keep in mind that not all of them may be appropriate depending on what’s happening in your novel at any given time. Feel free to tweet me @dariaanne and/or add more selections in the comments.
spoke, stated, affirmed, declared, replied, retorted, affirmed, confirmed, uttered, screamed, yelled, hollered, sighed, whispered, answered, questioned, opined, ordered, demanded, cried, exclaimed, stuttered, stammered, yammered, rambled, announced, complained, complimented, commended, chided, argued, bickered, praised, bragged, apologized, lamented, congratulated, comforted, insulted, lambasted, breathed, dictated, commanded, instructed, confessed, acknowledged, swore, cooed, predicted, asked, inquired, assured, convinced, persuaded, cackled, crowed, advised, counseled, proclaimed, hypothesized, wondered aloud, burst out, squealed, blurted, added.
These are just a few I listed off the top of my head but the choices are nearly endless. Looking for even more? Visit TimelessTeacherStuff.com, where you’ll find 188 alternatives to “said” listed in alphabetical order.
Here’s to creative writing and compelling reading! 😉