Is “said” worthless?

In college writing classes, we sit in a tight circle, facing each other. Sometimes, we critique our own works; other times we discuss writing. But one time—and only once—everyone raised their voices against what I suggested.

I disagreed with the author using the word said for every single dialogue tag. I raised my hand and said something like, “It’d be better to mix up the dialogue tags every once in a while. If you use the word said every time, the author is going to skim over it and—”

“That’s the point!” many of my classmates exclaimed at the same time.

My professor even had a smile on his face like my comment was laughable.

But I continued. “If you mix up dialogue tags every once in a while, you could add some more context and emotion to what’s going on. ‘That’s silly,’ he said has a different context than ‘That’s silly,’ he mocked. Using other dialogue tags could add more to the story.”

I think back to that moment from time to time when editing or reading. Do I use certain dialogue tags too much? Should I use the word said more? I definitely don’t agree with having a word to be skimmed over or ignored.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

9 thoughts on “Is “said” worthless?

  1. I try to lose as many tags as possible in the edit, the re edit.
    “I have a shoebox of them beneath the bed,” he said.

    It’s pleasing to set up a dialogue with as little as possible.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to mix them up a lot and then learned to write without them for the most part. I use a limited variety with “said” most of all. We want readers to notice the story, not the tags. Like all other parts of writing there are the choices as to how we find the right balance in our craft. Great examples of when using something besides said works.

    Liked by 1 person

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