Is “Said” Really Dead?

A while back I did a post wondering if there are really 115 synonyms for “walk.” It was more a goofy exploration into how some of those synonyms would look in gif form than a genuine dive into the question.

That said, I still have yet to promenade anywhere. Weird.

Anyway, today I’m tackling “said” with the same gif treatment. I searched for a poster like the one I used in the “walk” post, and know what I discovered?

Most “said” synonym graphics are for elementary-aged kids.

said synonyms1

Did you know “said” died?! Oh the humanity!

Sad Inside Out GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

There were several lists with this as the idea. Said is boring and old and tired and even dead so stop using it. Instead, use sang. Because we all sing words when we talk to people.

Zooey Deschanel Singing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Of course by “we,” I mean Disney princesses and elves and the occasional shiny crab. If your character isn’t one of those things, having them sing to one another might be a little awkward.

Maui Youre Welcome GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I suppose characters could smirk instead of say things. But how do you smirk words?

“I’m going to the store. Do you want anything?”

“Yeah, I need peanut butter,” I smirked.

“What? I didn’t understand because your mouth was closed.”

Smirk Dwight GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Same with quaked. How do you quake a word?

Nervous 30 Rock GIF by HULU - Find & Share on GIPHY

In my search for “said” synonyms, I found this, which may be for students but is definitely free of cartoon gravestones. I appreciated that it was obviously a photograph of something that came from a binder. It made my teacher heart happy.

said synonyms

According to that, there are 234 synonyms for “said,” including exposed.

Scared Big Eyes GIF by Bounce - Find & Share on GIPHY

Yeah, I don’t want to think about that either.

Upbraided might not be too bad though. If I knew what it meant. Giphy has exactly one match.

Portal 2 Doodles GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

So I guess use that one if you want to confuse everyone.

And maybe don’t use wrangled unless you’re writing a western or . . . a cartoon.

We'Re Here GIF by PBS KIDS - Find & Share on GIPHY

Now, I do want to say that most of these synonyms are fine. I’ve used a few of them. But many also fall under the old show vs. tell argument. For example, if Bill is giving a speech, we don’t really need to know he orated if you’re showing us that.

Happy Season 9 GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

More important, though, is to not mourn “said” prematurely. Using flowery tags is fine for elementary kids, who are learning about language itself (hence the abundance of graphics targeting that age). Not only is “said” not dead, it can relay who is saying what without drawing attention to itself (read this for more about dialogue tags).

Do you have favorite “said” synonyms? Or do you prefer letting “said” carry the load when tags are needed?

24 thoughts on “Is “Said” Really Dead?

  1. Elmore Leonard, who had a long and illustrious career in writing, and who wrote more than fifty books. Many of them made into movies, (“Get Shorty”, et al) had ten rules for writing:
    #3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue
    #4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”
    Simple, no?


  2. Love the gif for “quaked!” Ha ha! Writing masters I’ve heard speak of the matter always say stick with “said” or nothing at all if it’s clear who’s talking.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t stray too far from said. I might throw in an answered, retorted, or repeated, but nothing much fancier than that. The dialogue should be leaping off the page, not the dialogue tags 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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