characters / dialogue / writers resources / writers tips

Writer’s Tip #22: When to Use Said as a Tag

writers tipsWhen you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip: Stick with ‘said’ as a character tag.

I don’t necessarily agree with this one, but I’ve read it so often, I feel forced to pass it on.
Stick to “said” and always place the tag after the noun or pronoun. To use anything other than “said” distracts the reader (“said” is invisible). Words such as growled, barked, scoffed tell the reader how the character spoke rather than show it through the dialogue and action.

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4 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #22: When to Use Said as a Tag

  1. I like the teacher’s thoughts. I actually agree, but nowhere can I find that advice from the pundits. And, in reading, I most often see ‘said’, though I must attest to its invisibility. I rarely notice it.

    I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to exorcise my ‘barked’, ‘shouted’ and such tags. I feel like they add so much, yet I’m told they distract.



  2. I had a teacher in college who actually didn’t like us using the word “said” all the time in our short stories. He wanted variety because he felt using “said” got boring.

    I usually use “said” though most of the time in my manuscript. There have been a few times where I use a different word to put emphasis on how the dialogue sounds.


  3. I agree. When I write ‘said’, it seems uncommunicative, but when I read it in my favorite novels, it seems fine. As the pundits say, It’s invisible.

    I have great difficulty putting that word in my mss, though.


  4. I do believe there is a place for said. Having said that…in this day in age where email has replaced direct human interaction we’ve come up with a whole host of tags (verbal and visual) to help explain what we mean because the receiver can’t hear our tone of voice. And often times things said in jest may come across as cynical, or snide rather that LOL funny.


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