Words to replace said

Localforeigner

Active member
Joined
Jan 30, 2021
Messages
145
Points
28
I just leave 'said' or anything similar out most of the time. Isn't it obvious that someone is saying something if it's in quotation marks? And the speaker should be clear from the context in most cases.
That's dangerous. It is easy to lose track of who said what, especially if several people are talking.
This poster has the key. Do not avoid the word 'said'! It's important and it is invisible. Not using it in favor of words like the above is usually considered bad writing because it drags the reader out of the flow. Sparringly, they can be great spice, just be careful doing it.
 

yansusustories

Matchmaker of Handsome Men
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
589
Points
133
That's dangerous. It is easy to lose track of who said what, especially if several people are talking.
IMO, that depends a lot on how you do the overall thing. Sure, if you have a scene where you literally just have 'A said', 'B said', 'C said', 'A said' with nothing accompanying it, then, sure, it'll be extremely difficult to keep track of that. But I'd say that this is hardly the case for most situations. Unless your characters are really just sitting around a table/standing around and discussing something, there is usually something else going on.
Heck, even if they are just sitting and standing around while discussing, there are likely gestures and expressions to describe because most people don't just sit/stand stiffly the whole time without moving a single muscle. They will make expressions depending on whether they agree/disagree, move their hands to emphasize some of their points, and show emotions by doing stuff like brushing through their hair, facepalming, or whatever else you can think of. They will likely interact with the things in their vicinity as well like hitting the table, picking stuff up, or putting it down, pointing at things, you name it. They can even interact with other characters by doing more than just speaking through moving or gesturing. Whatever works for the situation, really.
That in combination with splitting up your paragraphs (as in, just one character's utterances per paragraph and starting a new paragraph if somebody else takes over) and utilizing quotation marks (opening and closing ones for one character's part or no closing quotation marks if the same character continues to talk in the next paragraph if we have a longer speech) are enough to show which character is talking even in a setting of a larger group in my opinion. Because the context will make clear who is speaking and to whom if you're doing things right.
Now, I'm not saying you should always leave out said or any other tagline. But I think that in many circumstances it really isn't needed and could be omitted without losing information. Let me make up a scene as an example and annotate why I think it works:

X picked up one of the booklets from the shelf in the outermost corner of the tourist information and had a quick glance through it. „Oh, look at this!“ He held the booklet up for Y to see. „There‘s a botanical garden in the Via Fratelli. It‘s open right now.“
For the last part, you could absolutely, alternatively, write:
„Oh, look at this!“ he said and held the booklet up for Y to see.
or – if that‘s more to your liking –
„Oh, look at this!“ he demanded and held the booklet up for Y to see.
but IMO, both convey pretty much the same information as my original example since the context makes clear who is speaking to whom: Since X is the one to pick up the booklet and look through it, it‘s clear that it can only be him who holds it up to show it to Y. Furthermore, this is X‘s paragraph. Nobody else‘s actions should be in there unless they‘re perceived by X. E.g. the scene could continue like this in the same paragraph:
When glancing back, X saw Y roll his eyes but he still went on to wave the booklet in his face, not caring at all that he apparently wasn‘t interested.
We do have Y's actions mentioned but through the lens of what X perceives so, it's still clear that this is all part of what X says and does.
Then, after X's actions and part of the conversation are done, you could switch over to the other side for the continuation of the conversation which would be in another paragraph to signify that this isn't about X anymore but Y now:
Y came over to take a look, his face indicating that he could imagine something better than going to look at rows of plants. „What about it?“
„Well, it looks nice. And like the really informational kind. Here, listen to this: The garden is from the 14th century when some monks or something like that were meditating there. And then it became a botanical garden in the 18th century. They even say it was a cultural center.
I‘d say let‘s go and have a look at it. Anyway, it‘s not far from the tourist information and there are some other things around that we could do as well. How about taking the metro from Cordusio to Cairoli and visit the Castello first and then go over afterward?" He looked up expectantly, clearly having everything planned out in his head already.
The first paragraph is about Y but in the second one X's speech starts since the "What about it?" question is closed at the end. On the other hand, the second and third paragraphs are both said by the same person, X, since there are no closing quotation marks at the end of the second paragraph. Now, you might say it's not a problem only with two people but it'd still be the same if you let a third or even fourth person enter in the next paragraph:
At that time, Z and A returned from the store across the street. Z came over to see what they were talking about and leaned over X's shoulder to take a look at the booklet in his hand as well. His face immediately scrunched up. "A botanical garden? What is this? A school trip? I thought we came here to have some fun!"
A slowly trailed after him. Thanks to Z's yelling, he already knew what was up. "I'd like to go and take a look, actually. If you don't like it, you can go and do something else in the meantime. Or what do you think?" He looked at X and Y who both nodded.
"I'll go with Z then. A botanical garden doesn't sound like something I'd have to see either. Here, this is what I found." Y raised a tourist guide that he had opened in the middle. The current page showed the photo of an aquarium. "It's not far from the castello either so we can go there together and then split up."
Z nodded. "Sounds good. Then in the evening, do we meet up at the castello again, or do we go straight back to the hotel?" He looked at the three of them, not sure what would be better. Taking one station with the metro wasn't a problem but he didn't trust Y with navigating around Milan if the way was any longer than that. He couldn't help but wonder if it wouldn't be better to follow X and A after all. How bad could it be to walk around a botanical garden after all?
Now, this is just a rough draft that I made up on the fly. With a bit more time invested in it, you could make it even more obvious but I think even like this, it is already clear who is talking at which point because the parts of the conversation they have are always tied in with what they are doing at the same time.
Maybe it could help to have the 'said'-part in those instances where their part of the dialog starts at the beginning of the paragraph to make it easier to see. But the thing is: You'd get the information only marginally sooner. And if you look at parts like this:
"I'll go with Z then. A botanical garden doesn't sound like something I'd have to see either. Here, this is what I found." Y raised a tourist guide that he had opened in the middle.
there isn't even a difference between going 'Y said ...' and 'Y raised a tourist guide' because you get the information that it is Y talking here at exactly the same point, namely right after his part in the dialog ends. If it was somebody else who raised the tourist guide to show the others what he was talking about, that action should be in the next paragraph to signify that this is another character now.

So I would maintain that there is no big difference between not using the taglines and using them with said included. It really just depends on what you prefer and what fits better with your writing style. If you are not big on describing the situation with who does what or maybe you have a scene where you want things to go extremely fast so it's really just 'A said', 'B said', 'C said', then yeah, it's better to include them for convenience's sake. For a scene where you have the time to add in the context, I'd say it's not necessary though.
Also: The argument for 'said' is most of the time 'it's invisible' compared to other verbs. Now, why add something invisible? Might as well leave it out when it's not needed then and it'd still be just as invisible or actually even more so because, well, it's not there. As long as the context clues make the same information available, you don't really need 'said', is all I'm saying.
 

GDLiZy

Tale Admirer
Joined
Dec 23, 2018
Messages
569
Points
133
Don't go overboard. Generally "said" and "asked" and sometimes "shouted" are usually enough.

 

Localforeigner

Active member
Joined
Jan 30, 2021
Messages
145
Points
28
So I would maintain that there is no big difference between not using the taglines and using them with said included. It really just depends on what you prefer and what fits better with your writing style. If you are not big on describing the situation with who does what or maybe you have a scene where you want things to go extremely fast so it's really just 'A said', 'B said', 'C said', then yeah, it's better to include them for convenience's sake. For a scene where you have the time to add in the context, I'd say it's not necessary though.
Also: The argument for 'said' is most of the time 'it's invisible' compared to other verbs. Now, why add something invisible? Might as well leave it out when it's not needed then and it'd still be just as invisible or actually even more so because, well, it's not there. As long as the context clues make the same information available, you don't really need 'said', is all I'm saying.
I mean, you do you. But professionals don't agree with you. Can you write something without 'said'? Sure. Should you? 9 times out of 10, no.

As to why add an invisible marker:
a) It helps the reader keep up
b) Dispels any potential confusion
c) In no way precludes action tags in and alongside their use
d) Being invisible to a reader and useless to a reader is not the same thing. A well-cooked meal often includes ingredients you can't name, but would notice if they were absent.
 

Avery_Evans

Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2021
Messages
23
Points
13
I mean, you do you. But professionals don't agree with you. Can you write something without 'said'? Sure. Should you? 9 times out of 10, no.

As to why add an invisible marker:
a) It helps the reader keep up
b) Dispels any potential confusion
c) In no way precludes action tags in and alongside their use
d) Being invisible to a reader and useless to a reader is not the same thing. A well-cooked meal often includes ingredients you can't name, but would notice if they were absent.
I agree that dialogue tags shouldn't be excluded, but overusing them can make the dialogue redundant and boring. There are a plethora of other ways you can use to show who's talking.
 

yansusustories

Matchmaker of Handsome Men
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
589
Points
133
But professionals don't agree with you
I mean there are billions of authors out there and each and every single one of them has their own philosophy on all parts of writing. If I pick some random books from my shelf and open a page to look at what - even bestselling authors - use to mark who speaks in dialogs, then I will find just as many who prefer to use any other kind of tagline than 'said', just like I will find others who prefer 'said' and use it 9 times out of 10, and also authors who will use any kind of tagline only sparingly, as well as those who will happily mix all three approaches.
So, who agrees with what really just depends on who you look to but doesn't really mean much. It's all a question of what kind of writing style you use and what you prefer yourself. As for me, I do prefer to not use any tagline for the most part but do include them in some special circumstances so they put more of an emphasis on things. It works with the rest of my writing style and that is all that counts. If it doesn't work with yours and 'said' does the job better, I can only return your words to you: you do you. But this isn't something that is the same for every author and there's no real authority on this, just different perspectives.

ETA:
Since I already took the time and checked, I figured I might as well add this. These are some of the authors whose books I checked who didn't use dialog tags or only used them very rarely:
  • Susan Hill in "The Woman in Black"
  • J.R. Ward in "Black Dagger"
  • Kathy Reichs in "To Hell with You"
  • Cornelia Funke in the Ink-Saga
They are all very well-known authors, and - apart from Susan Hill who I don't know that much about so I can't say for sure - they are all bestselling authors whose books were translated into several different languages. And I mean Susan Hill's book got a movie adaptation with Daniel Radcliffe so it couldn't have been that bad. It's just not my genre usually so I don't know anything more about her. Anyway, I'd say that means that at least some of those "professionals" would indeed tend to agree with me since they're doing the very same thing themselves.

Funnily enough, when I checked Terry Prattchet, I noticed he seems to use a 50/50 approach with using dialog tags other than said about half (or maybe slightly more) the time and no tag at all the rest of the time. So I'd say even though he doesn't agree with me, he doesn't agree with you either :blobrofl:

Now, keep in mind this result is just from checking a page or two each from a book. We'd need a real case study to see how the exact distribution is but I don't have that amount of time. Some other linguists can go and do that. But I think this does show that I'm not making shit up: People do have different approaches to this subject when writing and using 'said' isn't necessarily the mark of a professional. There are those who do, those who don't, and those who do it sometimes and don't do it other times.

And now I rest my case. I think I've said everything there was to say.
 
Last edited:

yunano34a1

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 4, 2020
Messages
182
Points
78
taken from tumblr, seems helpful so i'm sharing
Acknowledged
Answered
Protested
Added
Implored
Inquired
Insisted
Proposed
Queried
Questioned
Recommended
Testified
Admitted
Apologized
Conceded
Confessed
Professed
Advised
Criticized
Suggested
Affirmed
Agreed
Alleged
Confirmed
Announced
Chanted
Crowed
Appealed
Disclosed
Moaned
^I have no idea why those are grouped together
Argued
Barked
Challenged
Cursed
Fumed
Growled
Hissed
Roared
Swore
Articulated
Asserted
Assured
Avowed
Claimed
Commanded
Cross-examined
Demanded
Digressed
Directed
Foretold
Instructed
Interrupted
Predicted
Proclaimed
Quoted
Theorized
Bellowed
Boasted
Bragged
Babbled
Bawled
Mumbled
Sputtered
Stammered
Stuttered
Bargained
Divulged
Disclosed
Exhorted
Began
Concluded
Concurred
Begged
Blurted
Complained
Cried
Faltered
Fretted
Cajoled
Exclaimed
Gushed
Jested
Joked
Laughed
Extolled
Jabbered
Raved
Cautioned
Warned
Chided
Contended
Corrected
Countered
Debated
Elaborated
Objected
Ranted
Retorted
Commented
Continued
Observed
Surmised
Enunciated
Explained
Elaborated
Hinted
Implied
Lectured
Reiterated
Recited
Reminded
Stressed
Confided
Offered
Urged
Consented
Decided
Croaked
Lamented
Pledged
Sobbed
Sympathized
Wailed
Whimpered
Declared
Decreed
Mentioned
Noted
Pointed out
Postulated
Speculated
Stated
Told
Vouched
Denied
Lied
Dictated
Equivocated
Ordered
Reprimanded
Threatened
Droned
Sighed
Echoed
Mumbled
Murmured
Muttered
Uttered
Whispered
Exaggerated
Panted
Pleaded
Prayed
Preached
Gasped
Marveled
Screamed
Screeched
Shouted
Shrieked
Yelped
Yelled
Grumbled
Grunted
Jeered
Quipped
Scolded
Snapped
Snarled
Sneered
Nagged
Guessed
Ventured
Hooted
Howled
Yowled
Pondered
Voiced
Wondered
Recalled
Recited
Remembered
Revealed
Scoffed
Snickered
Snorted
Tattled
Taunted
Teased
Thank you for this post! Now I can add some flavor to my saids lol
 

Localforeigner

Active member
Joined
Jan 30, 2021
Messages
145
Points
28
I agree that dialogue tags shouldn't be excluded, but overusing them can make the dialogue redundant and boring. There are a plethora of other ways you can use to show who's talking.
I never said you should only use 'said', just that it should be your primary tag. Use things like 'shouted', 'roared', and 'ejaculated' sparingly, like a spice.
 

Avery_Evans

Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2021
Messages
23
Points
13
I never said you should only use 'said', just that it should be your primary tag. Use things like 'shouted', 'roared', and 'ejaculated' sparingly, like a spice.
I agree with you. I misread your previous message and thought you were talking about dialogue tags as a whole. My apologies for the misunderstanding.
 

Localforeigner

Active member
Joined
Jan 30, 2021
Messages
145
Points
28
I mean there are billions of authors out there and each and every single one of them has their own philosophy on all parts of writing. If I pick some random books from my shelf and open a page to look at what - even bestselling authors - use to mark who speaks in dialogs, then I will find just as many who prefer to use any other kind of tagline than 'said', just like I will find others who prefer 'said' and use it 9 times out of 10, and also authors who will use any kind of tagline only sparingly, as well as those who will happily mix all three approaches.
So, who agrees with what really just depends on who you look to but doesn't really mean much. It's all a question of what kind of writing style you use and what you prefer yourself. As for me, I do prefer to not use any tagline for the most part but do include them in some special circumstances so they put more of an emphasis on things. It works with the rest of my writing style and that is all that counts. If it doesn't work with yours and 'said' does the job better, I can only return your words to you: you do you. But this isn't something that is the same for every author and there's no real authority on this, just different perspectives.

ETA:
Since I already took the time and checked, I figured I might as well add this. These are some of the authors whose books I checked who didn't use dialog tags or only used them very rarely:
  • Susan Hill in "The Woman in Black"
  • J.R. Ward in "Black Dagger"
  • Kathy Reichs in "To Hell with You"
  • Cornelia Funke in the Ink-Saga
They are all very well-known authors, and - apart from Susan Hill who I don't know that much about so I can't say for sure - they are all bestselling authors whose books were translated into several different languages. And I mean Susan Hill's book got a movie adaptation with Daniel Radcliffe so it couldn't have been that bad. It's just not my genre usually so I don't know anything more about her. Anyway, I'd say that means that at least some of those "professionals" would indeed tend to agree with me since they're doing the very same thing themselves.

Funnily enough, when I checked Terry Prattchet, I noticed he seems to use a 50/50 approach with using dialog tags other than said about half (or maybe slightly more) the time and no tag at all the rest of the time. So I'd say even though he doesn't agree with me, he doesn't agree with you either :blobrofl:

Now, keep in mind this result is just from checking a page or two each from a book. We'd need a real case study to see how the exact distribution is but I don't have that amount of time. Some other linguists can go and do that. But I think this does show that I'm not making shit up: People do have different approaches to this subject when writing and using 'said' isn't necessarily the mark of a professional. There are those who do, those who don't, and those who do it sometimes and don't do it other times.

And now I rest my case. I think I've said everything there was to say.
Again, I never said you should only use 'said'. Please don't put words in my mouth. What I said was that 'said' is widely regarded by agents and publishers as the primary tag. Others should be used sparingly.

Picking 4 anecdotes doesn't prove anything, because, as you said, there are millions of books out there. Especially when you are simply spot-checking a few pages. It's far too small a data point to base anything on.

If writers want to be taken seriously by agents and publishers, then yeah, they should stick primarily to using 'said' and its variations.

I can only give you the advice I've heard from numerous published authors, agents, and publisher representatives I've listened to. You don't have to follow it, but pretending it doesn't matter is unhelpful to people who eventually may want to get published in traditional arenas.

But don't take my word for it:


An excellent part from the above:
"Some writers also think that said is dead because readers prefer more descriptive language. Let’s face it: said doesn’t tell you anything except who the words came from. There’s no volume! There’s no emotion! There’s no variety! While these arguments have merit, replacing every instance of said with something else is not the answer. Words that need more time for interpretation than said slow down the writing because you have to register the meaning of the tag rather than just the identity of the speaker. Doing this every time a character speaks is going to make your writing seem clunky and slow down the pace so the writing isn’t immersive. Said is invisible, but other verbs are not. They stick out, readers notice them, and they get annoying.

Further, while you can find charts on Pinterest with 1001 words to use instead of said, only a handful of these are going to flow well in your writing. For starters, a lot of these words shouldn’t be used in dialogue tags anyway because words like sighed, laughed, coughed, sneezed, etc. don’t actually describe a way of speaking so they’re not fit for dialogue tags, but that’s a separate issue. The point is that words like intoned and stated say nothing more than the word ‘said’, but are a lot less invisible and your readers will be able to tell you only used those words because you think said is dead, not because you’re a master of word choice."


I agree with you. I misread your previous message and thought you were talking about dialogue tags as a whole. My apologies for the misunderstanding.
No problem!
 

yansusustories

Matchmaker of Handsome Men
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
589
Points
133
Again, I never said you should only use 'said'. Please don't put words in my mouth.
Are you mistaking me for someone here? I never said you did? :blob_hmm:
I was merely arguing your previous point "professionals don't agree with you" which you made in regard to my personal stance on this topic. And, as I've reiterated several times now, my whole stance is: I can see merit in all three approaches and have seen them used by professional, published authors (usually in a mix but most have a clear preference for one of the three approaches that will make up most of their dialog) but my personal approach is to not use a tag unless it adds information that I deem necessary in the scene. Which even one of the articles you linked expressed is one of the two preferred alternatives:
If the context will tell the reader who is speaking and, if applicable, how they’re speaking, use said or do away with the tag entirely. You won’t need it.
That is exactly what I've been saying this whole time and tried to make clear with the scene I made up before. It's either 'use said' or 'use nothing' and I, personally, simply don't use 'said' unless I have to use it to clarify who is speaking when the context isn't making that clear for once.
In fact, even another one of your links states as rules:
2. Dialogue tags in general are often overused, however. Don’t include one unless it’s necessary.
3. Remember you can use descriptions of character action (known as action beats or stage business) instead of dialogue tags. These often help you imply the character state of mind.
and I'd argue 'said' is as much of a dialogue tag as the other available synonyms.

So I really don't understand why you are arguing that I'm wrong and my stance is unprofessional when even two of the sources you personally cited agree with me?
 

Businesssn

Brick-San the god of wholesome hentai
Joined
Dec 28, 2020
Messages
319
Points
43
Do yo7 have any for characters inturpting other characters in the middle of talking
 

Vivian-M.K.

Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2021
Messages
42
Points
18
This is bad.

'Said' is invisible to readers. It's meant to tell you who's speaking. If you use other words, then it becomes visible. Therefore it becomes annoying and repetitive when you use words other than said.

Don't try to be cool by replacing the word said. Just use said and your work will be better for it.
 
D

Deleted member 45782

Guest
This is bad.

'Said' is invisible to readers. It's meant to tell you who's speaking. If you use other words, then it becomes visible. Therefore it becomes annoying and repetitive when you use words other than said.

Don't try to be cool by replacing the word said. Just use said and your work will be better for it.
I disagree. If your characters convo go like this
He said
She said
He said
Other person said...

It gets boring pretty fast and annoying too.

Often times the readers know. Unless its something else with the way the writing is structured. Most time readers will know who is saying and stuff by the way people write their dialogue and interactions.

You don't have to replace every said with another word and you shouldn't. Its better to mix the word said with some of its alternatives to make it feel like the story is not limited in vocabulary on describing. But if your convo goes into He said, Tim said, Burton said, Amy said, She said -and does this a dozen times, it just doesn't feel like it helps one to immerse into a story and starts to sound like the narrator is telling me the story, like some sort of gossip.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Vivian-M.K.

Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2021
Messages
42
Points
18
That's why you:
1: change up how you use 'said.' IE: He ran over and said, "It's done." / "It's done," he said as he ran over.
2: don't overuse dialogue tags.
As long as you follow those two basic steps then it being boring and annoying simply won't happen no matter if you use 'said' for every single dialogue tag you include.

And again. 'said' is an invisible word. That means that readers go through it like it's not even there while understanding who's speaking. 'Asked' is another invisible word. Other words though are not invisible and will get repetitive far quicker than 'said' ever will.
 

MajorKerina

Active member
Joined
May 2, 2020
Messages
160
Points
43
It has often been said by professional editors and seasoned writers not to bother mixing in every synonym for said. Just say said and move on.
 
D

Deleted member 45782

Guest
That's why you:
1: change up how you use 'said.' IE: He ran over and said, "It's done." / "It's done," he said as he ran over.
2: don't overuse dialogue tags.
As long as you follow those two basic steps then it being boring and annoying simply won't happen no matter if you use 'said' for every single dialogue tag you include.

And again. 'said' is an invisible word. That means that readers go through it like it's not even there while understanding who's speaking. 'Asked' is another invisible word. Other words though are not invisible and will get repetitive far quicker than 'said' ever will.
Agree with 1 and 2. Disagree with it being 'invisible.' Only if its done well and not overly used. Depends on the readers too. I remembered reading someone got fed up with Twilight using said a lot. It really just depends how story is written and your readers.
 
Top