This is a hot discussion among writer: to use said, or not to use said.

Said is the most common word when tagging dialog. It fades into the background. A reader will glaze over it. That’s why it’s the most common. It’s not intrusive and carries little weight.

Some writers and editors will tell you never to use any other verb; I disagree, within reason. When another verb can be used to convey something not revealed within the dialog, go for it. But, use cautious. Using verbs other than ‘said’ should be a rare occurrence in a novel. If you use a new verb in each tag, you’ll look ridiculous.

“Yes!” he exclaimed.

In this example, the tagged verb, ‘exclaimed’ doesn’t need to be there. The ‘!’ in the dialog does all the work.

“Of course,” he reasoned.

This is a bit ‘meh’ as well. The ‘reasoning’ part of this character should be apparent in his personality, mannerism, and dialog.

“No,” I lied.

I like this one. This is one example that I think breaks the ‘only use said’ rule. If the reader did not know that the narrator was lying, this tag is a great little shocker. BUT if it had been revealed the narrator was lying before, like if the scene in question had happened on the page, then the ‘lied’ is frivolous.

“Have you been to London?”

“Yes,” he smiled.

I like this example. I see this a lot, along with ‘he sighed.’ A person can’t smile a word. They can’t sigh a word. They speak words. Unless your verb is a direct verb of spoken-ness, it doesn’t work.


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