Some months ago I came across a list on the Internet someone had posted with synonyms for the word said. Going through this long list I wondered whether English was the writer’s mother tongue as many of the words listed were in fact action words or words displaying feeling and certainly not to be used in place of he said/she said.
Time and again a novice writer or author who hasn’t been properly edited will use action words as speech tags, eg “blah de blah,” he laughed. Laughing is an action and no one can laugh and speak at the same time. Laughed, chuckled, smiled, grinned, coughed, sighed etc are all action words. And I defy anyone to speak and cough at the same time, you’ll end up choking on your words!
Using he said/she said is a much neater way of writing dialogue. Speech tags should be unobtrusive, almost disappearing into the background. In good writing, it is the words of the dialogue and any attached action that should convey the emotion and tone of the speaker. Once the order of a conversation has been established, speech tags should not be necessary for the most part. For a simple example:
“I don’t believe it!” he exclaimed, throwing down the book.
Here, the use of the exclamation mark tells the reader the speaker’s emotive reaction and response. Adding he exclaimed is totally superfluous and unnecessary. Far better to have written:
He threw down the book. “I don’t believe it!”
I have replicated the list below having extracted those incorrect words. All of these can be used instead of said, however I strongly urge you use with sparsity and caution. Less is more.
Other words that could be swopped for “said”
- accused, acknowledged, admitted, affirmed, agreed, announced, answered, articulated, asked, asserted, assured, avow,
- barked, bawled, beckoned, begged, bellowed, beseeched, blubbered, blurted, bossed, broadcast,
- cajole, called, carped, cautioned, censured, chimed in, comforted, conceded, concurred, condemned, conferred, confessed, confided, confirm, consoled, contend, continued, crave, cried, criticized, croaked, crooned, crowed,
- declared, defend, demanded, dictated, disclosed, disseminate, divulged, drawled,
- emitted, empathized, encouraged, entreated, exclaimed, explained, exposed,
- groaned, growled, grumbled,
- hesitated, hinted, hissed, hollered, howled,
- impart, implied, implored, informed, enquired, insisted, interjected, invited,
- jabbered, joked, justified,
- maintained, mewled, mimicked, moaned, mocked, mourned, murmured, mused, mumbled, muttered
- observed, offered, ordered,
- passed on, pleaded, postulated, preached, proclaimed, professed, proffered, promised, promulgated, proposed, protested, provoked, publicized, put forth
- queried, quipped, quivered, quizzed, quoted,
- reassured, raged, ranted, rejoiced, rejoined, remarked, remonstrated, repeated, replied, reprimanded, requested, required, requisition, retorted, revealed, roared,
- scoffed, scolded, shouted, shrieked, snarled, snivelled, sobbed, solicited, specified, spluttered, stammered, stated, stuttered, stressed, suggested,
- taunted, teased, testified, thundered, told, touted, trumpeted,
- wailed, warned, whimpered, whined, whispered,
- yawped, yelled, yelped, yowled