I hate to say that some people underuse “said” in their writing. Most of the time, writers intentionally choose to swap out this word to improve their text. But, swapping it out can actually have the opposite effect.
The switch up becomes distracting. After the first few lines of dialogue, the reader will absorb the tone of the conversation. Unless there is a shift in the way people are speaking, there is no need to keep defining the dialogue. Instead, you can use the word said and allow people to glaze over it.
Also, imprecise use of dialogue tags creates confusion. If you choose the wrong substitute word, the meaning changes. Don’t rely on your thesaurus remains one of my top tips as a Lynchburg content editor. Make sure you have full command of a dialogue tag’s meaning before you place it into a conversation.
Considerations for Dialogue Tags
In written conversation, the group of words following quoted speech is called a tag. This identifies who spoke and the tone of their speech. This includes:
- Tone or pitch (e.g. …she hissed)
- Volume (e.g. … she yelled)
- Emotion (e.g. … she laughed)
- Intent (e.g. … she questioned)
Using these to select the most appropriate tag requires understanding how they should be used.
How to use Said and Synonyms
In general, you should use dialogue tags sparingly. If you can illustrate any of the points above with actions, write those moments instead of stating them. Your character can smash a vase as they speak (indicating anger) instead of saying something angrily.
If you are deep into a conversation, you should show the feelings as much as describing them. This masks your presence as the writer and leaves the focus on the characters.
Any shift to an unusual or unexpected dialogue tag will elevate the description over the conversation. If you swap the word in every instance, your dialogue becomes more distracting. So, replacing the word said can become too much of a good thing.
Other Words for “Said”
If you do decide to freshen up your dialogue, you can use these substitutions for dialogue words.
Overall, your choices must make sure it’s clear who is speaking. If you use too many of these dialogue tags, your presence as the writer usurps the narrative. As much as possible, find ways to focus on the conversation and include actions that can replace descriptions.
Lynchburg Content Editor
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll appreciate my other articles about writing and communication. As a Lynchburg content editor, often write about communication, psychology, and other creative topics. Follow me on Facebook or Instagram to be the first to know when new content drops.