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There is nothing wrong with using the word said in written dialogue. Be careful not to treat the word said as a word to be avoided.
Well written dialogue should never rely on tags such as the ones below, but should convey its own attitude. When using words instead of said, be sure you utilize them properly.
For example, you cannot laugh and talk, or sneeze and talk at the same time. "That is so funny, laughed Bob," should not be used.
A person can laugh before or after they speak, but not while they speak. Think about how your character is going to speak and the emotion that they are experiencing.
Think it out before you write it down. Let me give you some examples. The following sentence does not use the word said:
"I hate you," spat Bob in disgust. Now think about that sentence. Can a person spit in disgust and speak at the same time?
Watch what happens this time when I use the word said and describe Bob's actions:
"I hate you," said Bob as he clenched his fists. His lips snarled with rage as he stormed out the room, vowing never to return.
Here is another example where the word said works just fine:
"Do have some more gravy, Bob," said Darla, spooning it out herself.
For dialogue to be effective it must appear to be realistic. The person reading your story must believe that your characters actually talk this way.
You should use dialogue to reveal insights into characters, set the mood, and even to clarify plot points. I was once told that when writing dialogue, to think of it as action.
Use dialogue to make something happen.
You may notice that some words on the list below cannot be used as replacements for said. These words have been added to assist you to enhance your dialogue and make
it more descriptive. For example, the word “quietly” cannot be used instead of said, but it can enhance your dialogue.
Ms. Maple covered her lips with her index finger until she had the attention of the entire class. “Let's use our inside voices,” she said quietly.
The words below are classified by emotion to make the list easier to use. Keep in mind that some words could be used in several categories such as “gasped”
which could express either fear or surprise.
Words in the list that have hyperlinks and chat bubbles 💬 can be clicked to display a pop-up box with an example.
Be sure to visit the examples page to see the complete list of how to use some of these words.
The definitions used in the examples came from dictionary.com. Be sure to use your dictionary for more definitions.
Use the list below carefully and remember that there is nothing wrong with using the word said in dialogue.
|The emotion of ANGER 😠|
(adjective) to charge with a fault, offense, or crime.
“Professor Plum murdered Colonel Mustard!” accused Miss Peacock.
(verb) to harass or urge persistently; pester; nag.
“Why are you not responding?” She badgered, poking him in the ribs. (submitted by Rhianna H.)
(verb) to express disapproval of; scold; reproach.
“It's not your hair that needs to be brushed, it's your teeth that need it,” chided Mary as she watched her husband in the mirror.
(adjective) having short, sharp vowel sounds and clear pronunciation.
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” he clipped. (submitted by Potato F.)
(verb) to irritate or provoke high degree; annoy extremely.
“This is the last time I help you,” exasperated Maddison as she sighed heavily. (submitted by Maddy & David)
(verb) to burst forth violently or emotionally, especially with noise, laughter, or violent speech.
“You told me this report was finished last Friday!” exploded Bob. “You haven't even started on it!”
X gibed or jibed:
(verb) to make insulting, taunting, heckling, or jeering remarks.
“Still afraid of the dark, aren't you!” gibed Tom at Sam's cowardice.
(verb) to cause someone to do something by being annoying.
“Come on you ninny, hit me in the face,” goaded Stan as he glared angrily at Phil.
(adjective) grim or unpleasantly severe; stern; cruel; austere
“You're a fool, boy!” Randall said harshly. (submitted by Bridgette H.)
(noun) a fit of violent anger.
“Put down my cup!” raged David's dad as he attempted to steal the last of the delicious juice. (submitted by Maddy & David)
(verb) to return like for like, especially evil for evil.
“You are an insignificant fool!” she retaliated. (submitted by Arden G.)
(verb) to have a gloomy or threatening look.
“I'm really mad at Marissa right now. She insulted me just to be popular.” scowled Gloria, even though Marissa was her best friend. (submitted by Nora D.)
(verb) to engage in a petty quarrel or dispute.
“Sally!” Adam spat, “it's time for bed. Go wash up.” Sally walked tiredly with her eyes almost completely shut, towards the house. (submitted by a student in the 4th grade)
(verb) to cry out or speak with a strong, loud, clear sound; shout.
“Get out of here!” he yelled. “The house is on fire!” (submitted by Amelia W.)
|The emotion of FEAR 😱|
(verb) to talk idly, irrationally, excessively, or foolishly; chatter or prattle.
“Oh my gosh, it's so awesome, and I got it at FAO Schwartz last year, and I wish you could share it with me...” Phil babbled. (submitted by Mia M.)
(verb) an act of weeping noisily and without restraint.
With little prompting, she spilled the whole glorious story in its entirety. Exhausted and tearful, she blubbered, “It's all my fault.” (submitted by Holly T.)
(verb) to suppress, subdue, or choke back as if by swallowing.
“Oh no!” gulped Ralph. “I think the teacher just caught me cheating on the exam.”
(verb) to breathe hard and quickly, as after exertion.
“Nick, wait! Wait up!” Shelby panted, running towards him. (submitted by Wenny W.)
(verb) to talk softly and privately.
“I don't like him,” whispered Bob. (submitted by Julie D.)
|The emotion of DISGUST 😝|
(noun) a facial expression, often ugly or contorted, that indicates disapproval, pain, etc.
“Just stitch me up and let's get out of here,” he grimaced, his face vainly trying to conceal the pain. (submitted by Rhianna H.)
(verb) to treat with ridicule or contempt.
“Sure you do,” he mocked, rolling his eyes. “You know everything.” (submitted by Tara N.)
(verb) to utter with a grating sound.
“You make me sick to my stomach,” rasped Avery as he turned and walked away.
|The emotion of HAPPINESS 😃|
(verb) to give sudden expression to or as if to emotion.
“I love you Aiden!” burst Emma. (submitted by Emma L.)
(verb) to laugh in a shrill, broken manner.
“You'll never escape!” she cackled. (submitted by Rhianna H.)
(verb) to say something in a lively and cheerful way.
“Come sit down,” she chirped, as she scooted over, leaving me a seat. (submitted by Tatum P.)
(verb) an expression of praise, commendation, or admiration.
“You look nice today,” complimented Ben. (submitted by Nathaniel F.)
(verb) to murmur or talk fondly or amorously.
“You are such a beautiful baby,” cooed grandmother as she leaned over the crib.
(verb) to talk in an unrestrained, excited manner.
“You look so radiant, so stunning, so fabulous in that dress, that I, I, I, just don't know what to say,” effused Alice.
(verb) to inspire with courage or confidence.
“Do it.” he encouraged. (submitted by Alysha B.)
(verb) to show or feel a lively or triumphant joy; rejoice exceedingly; be highly elated or jubilant.
He hurled the ball as hard as he could at the stumps, and to his delight, it clipped the offside of one, and the bail flicked off. “Yes!” he exulted, pumping his fist in the air in delight. (submitted by Chris G.)
(verb) to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
“It's okay, I know you didn't mean to. Let's be friends again,” Kate forgave. (submitted by Katherine K.)
(verb) to smile broadly, especially as an indication of pleasure, amusement, or the like.
“My softball team, the Batgirls, won the game against the Sharks!” grinned Sabrina, in spite of the fact that a member of the Sharks was glaring at her. (submitted by Nora D.)
(verb) an inarticulate sound uttered in contemplation, hesitation, dissatisfaction, doubt, etc.
“Shall we leave?” He asked. “Yes,” she hummed, grabbing his hand. (submitted by Rhianna H.)
(verb) to utter by chattering or babbling.
“Oh my goodness, I can't believe you actuallly got me an XBox one for my Birthday! I mean, I've always wanted one, but I didn't think I'd actually get one. This is so exciting I can't hardly stand it” prattled Andy as he tore the wrapping paper off his present.
(verb) to smile in a silly, self-conscious way.
“I really like Troy,” she said a little bit too loudly. Then she noticed him looking at her, and simpered.
|The emotion of SADNESS 😢|
(adjective) sullenly or silently gloomy; dejected.
“I got a C- in Choir,” Karran glumly said. (submitted by Taylor P.)
(noun) an expression of grief or sorrow.
“Have you seen my kitten? I left the door open and my kiiten got out, and now I can't find her.” lamented Krista as she looked up and down the street.
(verb) to weep with a convulsive catching of the breath.
“I'm sorry,” he sobbed. “It was my job to protect you and now you're dead.” (submitted by McKenna Y.)
(verb) to divulge, disclose, or tell.
“Did he confess?” “Yes, under duress, he spilled the whole story.” (submitted by Holly T.)
|The emotion of SURPRISE 😲|
(verb) to cry out or speak suddenly and vehemently, as in surprise, strong emotion, or protest.
“I made the team!” Lizzy exclaimed. (submitted by Helenaluciana M)
X marveled (U.S. spelling) marveled (U.K. spelling):
(noun) something that causes wonder, admiration, or astonishment.
“You saved my life,” marveled Amy. (submitted by Alison S.)
(adjective) bewildered; puzzled.
“I don't understand,” she said perplexed. (submitted by Elvey T.)
|Words associated with questions or curiosity 🤔|
(noun) a demand to explain, justify, etc.
“Why are you always blaming me?” challenged Andy.
(verb) to attempt to influence by gentle persuasion, flattery, etc.; cajole:
“You do want to grow up to be big boy don’t you?” coaxed the toddler's mother as she tried to feed him some beets.
(noun) an indirect, covert, or helpful suggestion; clue:
“You do think I look pretty in this dress don't you?” hinted Amy as she winked mischievously at Bill.
(verb) to appeal or entreat earnestly:
“Won't you please stay for dinner?” pleaded Catherine as Nathan headed for the door.
puzzled:(verb) unable to understand; perplexed or confused.
“Am I the only one who doesn’t understand that math formula?” puzzled Dan as he raised his hand to ask the teacher a question.
(noun) a question; an inquiry.
“You're sure that will work?” queried Jeff.
(noun) a questioning.
“What are you talking about?” quizzed Alan.
(verb) to question closely.
(verb) to think or speculate curiously.
“Did he mean to imply that I broke the window?” wondered Alex.
“How many times have I written that,” Stan wondered to himself.
(noun) a cause of uneasiness or anxiety; trouble.
“What will happen if I get caught?” worried Bill as he placed the stolen money in his pocket.
|Words associated with uncertainty 😟|
(verb) To give warning to; advise or urge to take heed.
“Are you sure about this? I'm not.” cautioned Mary.
(adjective) unsettled in opinion or belief; undecided; hesitating.
“I don't think so,” Adam said doubtfully, shaking his head. (submitted by Stevie M.)
| spluttered 💬
(verb) to talk rapidly and somewhat incoherently, as when confused, excited, or embarrassed.
“But, like … when, um, … how?” he spluttered.
(verb) to waver in mind or opinion; be indecisive or irresolute.
“I don't like Bill. I mean I do, but I don't,” Alan vacillated.
|Words not associated with any particular emotion 🤷|
(verb) to assent tacitly; submit or comply silently or without protest; agree; consent:
“Okay, okay, I agree with you,” Sam acquiesced.
(adjective) made clear or distinct.
“Please! Do not bring your textbook tomorrow!” Miss Lim articulated. (submitted by Han Y.)
(adjective) to be sure or certain of something; very confident.
“The monsters don't come out during the day,” assured Mack. (submitted by Kayla F.)
(adjective) acknowledged; declared.
“I have not eaten chocolate for over thirty days!” she avowed rather forcefully.
(verb) to be excessively proud, to brag, or be vain.
“Winning the kickball tournament was as easy as pie,” Sean boasted. (submitted by Kayla F.)
|cautioned||chimed in||claimed||clarified 💬
(verb) to make (an idea, statement, etc.) clear or intelligible; to free from ambiguity.
“So, we just read up until chapter eight?” Vonnie clarified with the teacher, just to be sure. (submitted by Katherine K.)
(verb) to give instruction or advice.
(verb) to express an opinion or reaction.
“There are a lot more animals here than yesterday,” Robert commented. (submitted by Nathaniel F.)
(verb) to accord in opinion; agree.
“Shall we dine?” Alice asked. “Indeed!” Bob concurred. (submitted by Anastasia K.)
(adjective) made certain as to truth, accuracy, validity, availability, etc.
“She has a concussion,” the nurse confirmed. (submitted by Alorie F.)
(verb) think carefully about (something), typically before making a decision.
“I wonder,” Billy considered, “whether or not I should try out for percussion.” (submitted by Nathan F.)
(verb) to give something: i.e. time, information, suggetions, etc.
“I don't know what to do!” Sue cried. “Maybe you could talk to him?” Allen contributed. (submitted by Emilia R.)
(verb) to support in the face of criticism.
“He didn't mean to,” defended Michael quickly. (submitted by Alexa C.)
(verb) to bend or turn aside; turn from a true course or straight line; swerve.
“Well, at least I don't have a huge forehead!” Elizabeth deflected. (submitted by Jaylin)
(verb) to make objection, especially on the grounds of scruples; take exception; object.
“Sure.” He jumped to his feet. “I'm sorry to have kept you.“ “No, no,” Anne demurred. (submitted by Jennie G.)
(verb) to tell or depict in written or spoken words; give an account of:
“So, what did the man look like?” The police inquired, desperate for an answer. “He had light, blonde curly hair and round, black glasses. He had a scar on his cheek, and his skin was really wrinkly.” Mary described. (submitted by Katherine K.)
(verb) to address with some form of salutation; welcome.
“Welcome to our home!” Mrs. Karns greeted fondly, gesturing the young lady to come inside. (submitted by Katherine K.)
(verb) to utter with a particular tone or voice modulation, such as singing or chanting
“Don't be concerned,” Lilith gently intoned, “I never meant to insult you.”
(verb) to hold or express an opinion.
“My brother is a genius,” he opined.
|put in||quietly 💬
(adjective) making little to no noise or sound.
Ms. Maple covered her lips with her index finger until she had the attention of the entire class. “Let's use our inside voices,” she said quietly.
|quoted||rattled on 💬
X rattleed on:
rattled on:(noun) to talk rapidly; chatter.
“I like pie, cheese, cake, pizza...” Bob rattled on. (submitted by Emma L.)
(noun) a statement presented in justification or explanation of a belief or action.
“It's impossible to finish by tomorrow,” Ashley reasoned. “Can't we have another day?” (submitted by Sarah S.)
(verb) to give an account of an event or experience.
“No, Mr. Johnson told us that the homework was due on Tuesday,” Sherri recounted, documenting the teachers previous instructions. (submitted by Hannah L.)
(verb) to repeat something you have already said in order to emphasize it.
“For the last time, whales do not eat humans,” reiterated Bob as he wondered how many times he would have to repeat himself.
(verb) to cause (a person) to remember; cause (a person) to think of someone or something.
“Don't forget to study for your math test over the weekend!” Mr. McAndrew reminded. (submitted by Katherine K.)
(noun) a statement or announcement.
“The test is going to be on classifying animals,” reported the teacher. (submitted by Nora D.)
(verb) to emit air or breath suddenly, forcibly, and audibly through the nose and mouth by involuntary, spasmodic action.
“I thought you knew I was allergic to daisies.” David scrunched up his face and sneezed. “Please take them out of the room, I can hardly breath.”
(noun) the first part or beginning segment of anything.
“Well,” started Jill, “I think we should go to the park.” (submitted by Charlotte C.)
(noun) importance attached to a thing.
“I need it,” he stressed. (submitted by K.J.)
(verb) to be in sympathy or agreement of feeling; share in a feeling.
“I know you didn't mean to do it,” Caroline sympathized.
(verb) to bear witness; give evidence.
“Well your honor, there is no evidence that he stole the diamond,” the lawyer testified. (submitted by Grace R.)
(verb) to impel, constrain, or move to some action.
“Go, GO!” Gatlin urged, pushing her sister out the door. (submitted by Katherine K.)
(verb) to offer (oneself or one's services) for some undertaking or purpose.
“I guess I will,” Kathy volunteered, stepping forward. (submitted by Katherine K.)
(verb) to want; desire; long for.
“I want cake,” Wade wished. (submitted by Emma L.)
Do you have a word that you think should be added to this list, or a comment?
Touch the button below to send Steven P. Wickstrom an e-mail:
To those of you who have e-mailed suggestions to me, I would like to say thank you very much. This page is a success because of you.
Steven P. Wickstrom
To view some examples of words to use instead of said, touch the button below to go the examples page.