The Said/Says Debate

Should said/says be used the majority of the time or avoided?  Three tips I’ve found that help me.

I’ve seen conflicting opinions on if said/says should be used as much as possible or avoided.  This is my general understanding of the argument:

Pro Said/Says:  When reading, said/says is so common that it fades into the background and allows the reader to easily follow and stay immersed in a story.

Against Said/Says:  This camp believes that said/says are overused and boring.  They tell us little about the moment and add little.  Therefore, said/says should be deleted, reduced, or replaced by something more descriptive/engaging.


After receiving some initial feedback from my beta readers, I’d like to share what has been working for me

1. Said/Says is the default.  If I need to alert the reader that a particular character is saying something my default is said/says.  If I need to make a comment by a character pop a bit more to reflect their personality, current attitude, reaction, etc., then I might consider using something a bit more dramatic than said/says.

2. Do you really need said/says?  A conversation has begun between two characters that are alone together.  After the establishing which character said the first line, the reader doesn’t need a line-by-line reminder of which character is speaking.  These are great places to drop any unnecessary said/says phrases.

3. Is the word you’ve chosen to replace said/says furthering the story?  When I first began writing I was at the extreme of using too many words other than said/says.  For example:  she laughed, she cried, he growled, she spat, he frowned, he smirked.  It was enough that my husband said it was driving him nuts.

So I went back and each time I used something other than said/says I asked myself if this detail was important or even possible.  As my beta reader reminded me, can anyone really laugh whole sentences?  I tried it, I can’t.

This allowed me to achieve a balance between said/says and more exciting words.  The moments where I say something like he growled pop a bit more now and don’t annoy the reader.  (Side note:  I get that growling is a little odd, but I’m not writing about regular old humans!)


As with many things I do think personal preference comes into play in this debate.  So write what you would like to read.  Or check out a few of your favorite books and see how the author has approach it!

What are your thoughts on this?  Do you prefer one over the other?



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