No, Said is NOT Dead

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I’ve already established my love of Pinterest, where beautifully presented information flows on and on in a dizzying swirl of distraction and practicality. Pinterest is my favourite online tool for curating great articles on literature, blogging, and writing craft.

The trouble is not all Pinformation is reliable. It’s not Pinterest’s fault. The Internet oozes unsubstantiated, dodgy “facts.” We all know that, right?

Mis-Pinformation

Today, I’d like to debunk one such “fact,” which is promulgated on Pinterest via Said is Dead infographics. These pins often turn up on teachers’ education or language arts boards, but they regularly make their way into the writing craft stream. Building students’ knowledge of synonyms is virtuous, but please, let’s leave it as a vocabulary exercise and not apply it to writing fiction.

The Said is Dead concept suggests that the word said can be overused in writing—that a page of he-said/she-saids is unimaginative. These folk (whoever they are) insist that writers should be more original in tagging dialogue by using colourful intelligent alternatives, such as declare, announce, remark and so forth.

convo

Worse still, some of these dodgy infographics suggest that writers should mark dialogue with tags like chortle, breathe, gasp, and hiss.

Sorry, but laughing and speaking are mutually exclusive activities–at least in my un-co body they are. Maybe gum-chewing walkers and other such contortionists can handle the dual act of chortling while talking, but I can’t. And as for breathing (inhaling) while speaking–Seriously. Have you ever tried it? It’s a feat best left to didgeridoo players.

convo

The Incredible Vanishing Act of Said

Said is magical. It’s there but it’s not. It does an important job for the reader and then Poof! It vanishes without a trace. On the other hand, declaring, intoning, stating, and sighing all demand attention: “Look at me! There’s a writer responsible for this clever stuff you’re reading, and s/he can use a thesaurus!”

Literary agent Mary Kole calls these dialogue markers “peacock words.” In her wonderful book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers, she says:

 “…while we’re at it, try only using ‘said’ or ‘asked’ in your speech tags. You might think this is woefully unoriginal, but those verbs disappear on the page because readers are so used to them…[O]verusing thesaurus words marks you as an amateur writer. These verbs convey emotion, and I see them as a lazy cheat, since that’s your dialogue’s job, not the job of your tags.”

 [She has more to say on page 136 about adverbs modifying speech tags, another pet peeve of editors. To paraphrase: “Don’t,” she urged irritably.]

Fight the Good Fight!

So please, fellow pinners, for the love of language and literature, stop pinning the misleading Said is Dead infographics that incite crimes against good dialogue!

Writer-Pinners, let’s rally to save the magical, un-improvable Said! Fight back against misinformation with me by pinning this post instead.

16 thoughts on “No, Said is NOT Dead

  1. Very good! Also, with those silly tags, it makes reading rather a bore, as u can’t “breeze” as easily through the story… Unless ur JRR Tolkien, but he does it in a poetic way. (I’m currently reading “The Book of Lost Tales I”)
    Also, fun fact….it’s my cat’s birthday!! She’s four, which would be 33 in human years!! She’s such a darling 🙂 I love my girl ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Give her a scratch behind the ears for me. Looking forward to your appraisal of The Book of Lost Tales I.

      Incidentally, last night while reading The Tale of Despereaux, I found a instance of “breathed” as a dialogue marker. In context, it worked, and it sat alone in a sea of saids (I checked). The moral is the occasional “peacock word” (expertly used) is fine–especially in lyrical writing (like JRRT’s and Despereaux).

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      • I’ve got the “Tale of Despereaux”!! I like that book!! Tho I hate it when Despereaux loses his tail 😦 I love tails, and I can’t believe he lost his 😦 I’ve also got two other books by the same author – “…Edward Tulane…” and “Because of Winn-Dixie” I LOVE Kate DiCamillo’s style of writing, because she tends to break the fourth wall – she directly addresses the reader!! So awesome 🙂

        However, I don’t think that too many “saids” is good either. If you’re using “said” at the end of EVERY speech, that’s also lazy. I would suggest using some OTHER tags – where appropriate, of course 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. In case anyone is wondering if this applies to adult writing, I found another quote in favour of sticking with said. From Les Edgerton’s Finding Your Voice: Putting Personality in Your Writing:
    “[Said has] become a form of punctuation, almost, and as such is invisible, which means the reader doesn’t trip over it as he or she does with most other substitutions, which mostly have the effect of making the reader aware that someone is writing the dialogue.”

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  3. Also “and”. “And” vanishes as well. The common words we use to tie sentences together are pretty swish!! Disappearing words are FUN 😀
    (“Are” is ALSO a vanishing word…so is “so”, “is”, “of” etc. You know what I mean 😉 )
    I ❤ words
    And Maths, actually. I can understand Maths well, s'long as there's a formula 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks. I hope I did I remembered this in my novel. It’s already been sent off to my first choice publisher so too late now if I have added a few, speech no- nos! Oh, I reckon my weakness is definitely exclamation marks, I tend to get carried away !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, Tracee, and for the link to you article. I read your post and totally agree. Please pin my graphic on Pinterest (One junkie to another) and between us we can start a Keep Said Alive Movement!

      Like

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