316 Other Words for Said (+ Tips to Use Them)
To dialogue tag, or to not dialogue tag… a question forever debated by writers! And within that dialogue, is it acceptable to use a word other than “said”?
Some authors declare that ALL colorful dialogue tags are trash. “Only use said,” they insist. “And use it as sparingly as possible.”
But the truth is, creative writing doesn’t have hard rules. We each have our own unique style and voice. So what works for Stephen King shouldn’t be set in stone for you. There are some general best practices, but ultimately, it’s up to you and your writing style to make the final decision.
I’m going to share a few sides of the debate along with examples. And finally, a list of other words for “said” in case you decide that’s the path for you.
Why the Hate for Fancy Dialogue Tags?
It’s true—some writers go a bit nuts. They feel like every single dialogue tag has to be fancy and unique, and it can get really distracting. It’s a common mistake for new and inexperienced writers.
Some of you might be familiar with My Immortal, an infamous Harry Potter fanfiction that was so awful it became a meme.
This infamous example can show what happens if you only use words other than “said”:
“I’m so sorry.” he said in a shy voice.My Immortal
“That’s all right. What’s your name?” I questioned.
“My name’s Harry Potter, although most people call me Vampire these days.” he grumbled.
“Why?” I exclaimed.
“Because I love the taste of human blood.” he giggled.
“Well, I am a vampire.” I confessed.
“Really?” he whimpered.
“Yeah.” I roared.
This is an extreme example, and it reads a bit silly. But it captures the main reasons why some writers advise against excessive dialogue tags.
The truth is, a lot of new writers make this mistake. They’re afraid that using “said” too much is repetitive, so they try to spice it up with alternatives. Word repetition can be detrimental to your story, sure, but “said” is a common enough word that you don’t need to worry about it.
In this particular example, the problem is deeper than just other words for “said.” There’s a lot going on here.
- Every line has a unique dialogue tag, making it feel forced.
- Most of the tags don’t make sense with the dialogue.
- Every tag is applied in the same way, making the sentence fluency sound choppy.
- There’s no description or character action, making this a case of “talking heads.”
- The grammar is a bit off, too. Dialogue tags should attach with a comma instead of a period.
So it’s not JUST the dialogue tags that make it read poorly. But they certainly don’t help!
The Argument for a Simple “Said”
Like mentioned before, some writers keep dialogue tags as simple as possible – they exclusively use “said.” Sometimes I’ve heard that “asked” is the only acceptable alternative.
“Said” is invisible. Most readers won’t even actively register reading it.
It’s simple. Clean. It gets the point across, keeps your writing tight. and doesn’t distract your reader. So some writers say that other words for “said” just aren’t necessary.
It’s true that not every line needs a dialogue tag. You can pair dialogue with description or leave it plain. Sometimes this is a better place to describe your character’s tone or imply how they’re feeling.
It’s in line with the classic advice of “show don’t tell.” Instead of telling us that your character is whispering, describe the scene in a way that implies the need for quiet or secrecy. Then your reader will imagine everyone speaking in hushed tones without the need to explain it.
“Wait,” Kent said, catching her by the elbow. “Tell me your name.”
The witch yanked free from his grip and continued walking. Her pace was grueling. “Don’t you already know it? I know how they talk about me in town.”
Can you guess the tone of these two characters, just based on their actions and words? Do I need to say “Kent shouted” or “the witch snapped”?
Sometimes there’s no need for a word other than “said.” The tone is implied by the context.
Why Not Both? Try a Mix!
You’re a writer, which means you get to decide on your own rules.
Don’t let others tell you there’s only one right way to write dialogue. We each have our own writing style, so we each get to make this choice for ourselves.
So play with it. Read books by your favorite authors and pay attention to what they do. Decide what you like best and write it that way.
Personally, I find that limiting myself to just is “said” a bit boring, and it’s just not always the best tool for the job.
Sometimes you want to capture an emotion in your character’s voice, and a dialogue tag is the best place to put it. Sometimes you want a simple, to-the-point “whispered” over a wordy description. Sometimes there’s multiple people in the room, so you need a dialogue tag to clarify who’s talking and “said” isn’t quite right.
My Strategy: Simple, but Varied
With dialogue tags, it’s easy to get carried away.
When I write, I keep it simple, but I’m not afraid to use something other than “said.” I’ll sprinkle in a few variations, but keep it common. Asked, whispered, hissed, interrupted, insisted, began. If the situation calls for something slightly more fancy, I’ll go for it.
Uncommon words can be distracting. Used incorrectly, they can feel forced or awkward. If they don’t fit your voice, it sounds like you’re writing a school assignment and showing off your vocab for the teacher.
A dialogue tag should be more or less invisible. They need to fit the situation and your writing style. Typically, fancy alternatives for “said” just don’t meet those criteria.
Remember, too—not every line of dialogue needs a tag. Sometimes it’s better to leave it plain or partner it with a descriptive sentence. Mixing it up is better for sentence fluency, too.
Here’s a sample I pulled from A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas.
“There’s a bond—it’s a real thread,” he said, more to himself than us.
“And?” Mor asked.
Lucien ran both hands through his long red hair. His skin was darker—a deep golden-brown, compared to the paleness of Eris’s coloring. “And I got to Elain’s end of it when she ran off.”
“Did you sense anything?”
“No—I didn’t have time. I felt her, but…” A blush stained his cheek. Whatever he’d felt, it wasn’t what we were looking for. Even if we had no idea what, precisely, that was.
“We can try again—another day,” I offered.A Court of Wings and Ruin
As you can see, this short conversation includes a mix. Said, asked, and offered, along with some lines that don’t have a dialogue tag at all. The dialogue tags add a little info without being distracting.
Need Other Words for “Said“?
Here you go. A cursed list filled with many (dangerous) alternate words for “said.”
Some innate part of me likes to collect and hoard things. So I wanted to dive into the English language and collect as many other words for “said” as I could find.
English is a HUGE language, so yeah, I found a lot of them.
Most of these you’ll probably never use. Most of them you SHOULDN’T ever use.
But hey, maybe there’s a time and a place for every option on this list. A really snobby character might use really snobby vocab. A badly programmed robot might use random, nonsensical words. A parody writer might stuff a ton of these into a poorly written fanfic purely for entertainment purposes.
With power comes responsibly and lots of margin for error. So be safe, be smart, and use this list at your own risk.
A Masterlist of 316 Synonyms for “Said”
- Spelled out