“Said” is FINE! :)
There are several charts and lists making the rounds lately with alternatives to using “said.” Guys–I cannot stress this enough: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH USING “SAID!” :) If you feel like you’re overusing “said,” it’s because you’re over tagging. That’s it. End of story.Which is not to say you should never use replacements for “said.” It’s just that you should use them sparingly and only when appropriate. Here are some things to keep in mind when using alternatives to “said”:
1) Beware of Non-Synonymous Words.
In other words, beware of words that aren’t synonyms of “said” or other speaking words.
Body Language Words:
Words like laughed, shrugged, frowned, trembled, and their synonyms are not words that have to do with speech. You can’t frown something. You can say something WHILE frowning. You can’t tremble something. You can say something WHILE trembling. You wouldn’t say: Ted stood in front of the class and trembled the alphabet. So, you shouldn’t say, “I’ll go in front of the class and recite the alphabet,” Ted trembled.
Speech hindering actions:
Words like smiled, gaped, bubbled, breathed, panted, sneezed–try saying a few sentences while doing any of these things. Bear in mind that “gape” means “open wide.” It’s pretty difficult, right? Not to mention it probably looks/sounds pretty silly.
Words like accepted, approved, brainstormed, puzzled, cross-examined, publicized, justified, beckoned, invited–are words that go hand-in-hand with talking, but they’re not words that relate to actually saying things. “We could go with a red one, a blue one, or one made of metal, or maybe wood?” Ted brainstormed. Or, “We’re remodeling our house,” Ted publicized. It just sounds weird.
2) Beware of Over-Complicated Words.
While it’s certainly fine to be ornate now and then, most of the time, simple and concise is much better. Words like asseverated, remonstrated, vociferated, equivocated, acknowledged, communicated, etc. are long and over-complicated. “We’re remodeling our house,” said Ted is a lot more concise than “We’re remodeling our house,” Ted vociferated. It’s fine once in a while, when the word choice really matters, but don’t get into the habit of it.
3) Beware of the “Instead of Said” Tennis Match
The only thing worse than:
“We should go to the beach,” Denise said.
“I would love to,” said Laura.
“There’s a great beach in the next town,” Melissa said.
“I think I know the one you mean,” Denise said.
“We should go to the beach,” Denise announced.
“I would love to,” agreed Laura.
“There’s a great beach in the next town,” Melissa offered.
“I think I know the one you mean,” Denise stated.
4) Beware of Over Tagging
The problem with the examples in #3 isn’t the overuse of “said” or of alternatives to “said.” The problem is over tagging. When you’re writing dialogue, it isn’t necessary to put “he said” after every line that is spoken. Try using action instead:
Denise gazed out the window at the beautiful sunny day. “We should go to the beach.”
“I would love to,” Laura said, joining her at the window
Melissa picked up the travel guide from the dresser. “There’s a great beach in the next town.”
“I think I know the one you mean,” said Denise.
I hope that demystifies tagging a little bit for those of you who feel like you’re overusing “said” too much. :)