What’s the problem with said?

“This,” she said.

Jenn Burke

I saw a tweet recently with the hashtag #SaidAlts offering suggestions for “said” alternatives that made me cringe. I’ve seen this come up a lot with new authors, this aversion to said. It’s not that I’m against using synonyms for said (I’m really not!), but the choices the tweet offered up struck me as trying way too hard to get away from a very utilitarian—and rightfully invisible—verb.

Okay, so here’s an example of dialogue:

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Now, with a more colourful alternative for said that was recommended in that tweet:

“I’m sorry,” he regretted.

Look at those two lines for a minute. Which works best? Sure, “regretted” is not as boring as “said”, but there are a few problems with using it.

The biggest problem is that “regretted” is not a synonym for “said”. Other said alternatives, like shouted, screamed, whispered, whimpered, hissed, declared, exclaimed, and so on—those are…

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