Because I’m confused. I am getting mixed messages about a tiny but important word: said. I even felt a little panicked about it at first.
I was taught in school to avoid too much “said”. But then again it was public school in Washington State, so the relevance to current thought is questionable.
Should we writers use “he/she/they said” after dialogue exclusively or should we find more interesting words. Who is right? What do you think?
These people think you need more interesting words:
- http://www.writingfix.com/PDFs/Writing_Tools/said_synonyms.pdf (this is a school material)
- http://year4atbearwood.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/synonyms-for-said-can-you-add-to-the-list/ (So is this. Are we teaching our kids to be poor writers?)
These people think that anything other than “said” or maybe “asked” detracts from the story, calling them “said bookisms,”
- http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SaidBookism (This one says it is “Purple Prose” and “Discredited Trope”)
“James Blish told me I had the worst case of “said bookism” (that is, using every word except said to indicate dialogue). He told me to limit the verbs to said, replied,asked, and answered and only when absolutely necessary.”
– Anne McCaffrey http://www.logicalcreativity.com/jon/quotes.html
As an editor, I think that “said” can be overused just as much as any other word. I have edited manuscripts where “said” and other such words were overused in abundance, and it can become rather overwhelming. Much like anything else, I believe in balance with all things. In many cases, you can substitute “said” with a short sentence that conveys the emotion of the character. I think the bottom line is, don’t overuse any one word. Steer clear of using the same word too many times, too close together. I once had a fear of overusing “said”, and I was constantly grilling myself over whether or not I had used it excessively. Keep an eye out, but don’t worry about it too much. Balance, balance, balance–that’s the key.