550 Alternative Words for "Said"

Updated on April 4, 2018
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Since 1994, short stories by AJ Barnett have appeared in magazines, summer specials, international competitions, and available on Kindle.

Source

Is it your dream, your fantasy to write a bestseller? Do you have a book in your head, but the word "said" keeps getting in the way? If we write, then somewhere along the line we'll run into the word "said," one of the most common dialogue tags. But what is a dialogue tag, you ask?

What Is a Dialogue Tag?

In writing, a dialogue tag is a group of words that follow a line of speech. They provide information about the words between the beginning and end quotation marks such as

  • Who is speaking (i.e. he, she, they, Danny, Lucy)
  • Volume (i.e. shouted, yelled, whispered)
  • Tone (i.e. moaned, babbled, howled)

By using dialogue tags, writers are able to explain to readers the way in which their characters are speaking and the emotions that should be inferred from the inflection of their words.

Other Words for "Said" by Emotion

Repeating "he said, she said," can get annoying, but is it smart to use a different verb? There are abundant words to use instead, yet purists believe you're probably best not using them, since readers pay such little attention to "said" it effectively becomes invisible.

A good practice to follow is that when it’s understandable who is speaking the line of dialogue, you can remove the verb completely. It's surprising how much more professional your work will look if you do. In fact, let's make a rule: if it's obvious who's speaking, don't use anything.

You should only substitute "said" if the line of dialogue needs accentuation or verbalization to convey the way the words are expressed. Gorging your story with alternative words for "said" makes your work look amateurish, so be sure to se alternatives with moderation.

But sometimes you need to indicate who's speaking, and sometimes the word "said" doesn't quite do the job. That being said, if you’re struggling to find that elusive and perfect substitute, here’s a list of words (categorized by emotion) that might help.

Acceptance

Accepted, acknowledged, admitted, affirmed, agreed, assumed, conferred, confessed, confirmed, justified, settled, understood, undertook, verified.

Anger

Accused, barked, bellowed, bossed, carped, censured, condemned, criticized, demanded, fumed, gawped, glowered, growled, grumbled, hissed ordered, raged, remonstrated, reprimanded, retorted, scoffed, scolded, seethed, snapped, snarled, ticked off, told off, upbraided.

Contemplation

Contemplated, mused, pondered.

Conviction

Addressed, advertised, articulated, bragged, commanded, confided, decided, dictated, ended, exacted, finished, informed, made known, maintained, necessitated, pointed out, promised, reassured, remarked, repeated, reported, specified, stated, told.

Desire

Attracted, requested, wanted.

Excitement

Babbled, beamed, blurted, broadcasted, burst, cheered, chortled, chuckled, cried out, crooned, crowed, declared, emitted, exclaimed, giggled, hollered, howled, interjected, jabbered, laughed, praised, preached, presented, proclaimed, professed, promulgated, quaked, ranted, rejoiced, roared, screamed, shouted, shrieked, swore, thundered, trilled, trumpeted, vociferated, wailed, yawped, yelled, yelped, yowled.

Fear

Cautioned, shuddered, trembled, warned.

Generosity

Comforted, consoled, empathized, invited, offered, proffered, released, volunteered.

Persuasion

Advised, alleged, appealed, asserted, assured, avered, avowed, beckoned, begged, beseeched, cajoled, claimed, conceded, concluded, concurred, contended, defended, disposed, encouraged, entreated, held, hinted, implied, implored, importuned, inclined, indicated, insisted, pleaded, postulated, premised, presupposed, protested, stressed, suggested, touted, urged, vouched for, wheedled.

Pride

Chimed in, circulated, disseminated, distributed, expressed, grinned, made public, passed on, publicized, published, put forth, put out, quipped, quizzed, quoted, reckoned that, required, requisitioned, taunted, teased.

Provocation

Exposed, imitated, joked, leered, lied, mimicked, mocked, provoked.

Sadness

Agonized, bawled, blubbered, grieved, groaned, lamented, mewled, mourned, puled, sobbed, wept.

Storytelling

Announced, answered, began, called, commented, continued, denoted, disclosed, divulged, explained, imparted, noted, observed, proposed, rejoined, replied, revealed, shared, solicited, sought, testified, transferred, transmitted, went on.

Uncertainty

Asked, doubted, faltered, fretted, guessed, hesitated, hypothesized, inquired, lilted, quavered, queried, questioned, shrugged, speculated, stammered, stuttered, supposed, trailed off, wondered.

Words That Indicate Sound

Breathed, choked, croaked, drawled, echoed, grunted, keened, moaned, mumbled, murmured, panted, sang, sniffled, sniveled, snorted, spluttered, squeaked, uttered, voiced, whimpered, whined, whispered.

Other Words for "Asked"

When writing an inquisitive character, sometimes the standard "asked" can become a bit stale. Try using these alternatives when you want to add some variety to your dialogue.

Appealed
Begged
Beseeched
Contended
Entreated
Inclined
Insisted
Pleaded
Probed
Prodded
Protested
Cajoled
Stressed
Doubted
Faltered
Guessed
Hesitated
Hypothesized
Inquired
Lilted
Quavered
Queried
Questioned
Wondered

Other Words for "Stated"

Instead of repeatedly using stated to express the way in which a character delivers their words, try using one of these more descriptive alternatives.

Asserted
Concluded
Explained
Noted
Remarked
Reported
Specified
Told

Adverbs and Phrases to Explain How Something Was Said

Okay, so despite the warning, you’ve decided you really need to use one of the words above for "said." In order to make your writing absolutely zing, you might want to go whole hog and add an adverb or a phrase to convey or emphasize exactly how the line of dialogue was said.

An adverb is a word ending in -ly and modifies a verb.

The way it works is you choose whichever word for "said" you fancy from the list above, then add a adverb or phrase after it from the list below. For example, "She promised, with a controlled smile," or "He remarked, with a gloomy sigh." But do not overdo it. Be very careful not to end up sounding amateurish.

List of Adverbs for Dialogue

  • Abruptly, Absently, Acidly, Angrily, Apologetically, Approvingly, Artfully
  • Bemusedly
  • Calmly, Caustically, Cheerfully, Complacently, Crossly
  • Depressingly, Dryly
  • Earnestly, Enthusiastically
  • Gently, Gruffly
  • Happily, Hotly
  • Impatiently, Indulgently, Informed sassily, Innocently, Inquired doubtfully, Irritably
  • Loftily, Loudly
  • Mentally shrugged
  • Naturally, Nodded agreeably, Not wanting to sound pushy, Noncommittally
  • Offhandedly, Optimistically
  • Pleasantly, Politely, Politely smooth, Promised in a motherly/fatherly way, Prompted gently Promptly,
  • Quietly
  • Reflectively, Roughly
  • Sadly, Sympathetically, Sarcastically, Sincerely, Smiled faintly, Smugly, Soberly, Softly, Sparingly, Sternly,
  • Tartly, Tautly, Teased softly, Tightly, Truthfully, Thoughtfully,
  • Uncertainly, Unexpectedly, Urgently
  • Vaguely
  • Went on loyally, Wilfully misunderstood, Without sounding unduly curious, Wryly
  • Xenophobically
  • Yearningly
  • Zealously

List of Phrases for Dialogue

"She said in a..."

Casual tone, chiding tone, courteous manner, curious tone, dry tone, flirtatious way, level tone, level way, perpetually tired voice, rasping tone, small panicky voice, soothing tone, voice soft with affection.

"She said with a..."

Controlled smile, fond look, gloomy sigh, note of relief, sad grimace, sad smile, sense of guilt, sigh of irritation, burgeoning excitement.

"She said with..."

Conviction, determination, fire, firm persistence, gentle remonstrance, graceful simplicity, mock astonishment, pleasure, quiet empathy, simple directness.

Other Phrases to Modify "Said"

  • After a moment's reflection
  • False cheerfulness
  • Friendly fashion
  • In quiet amazement
  • Made the effort to sound reassuring
  • Meaning the words more seriously than they sounded
  • Sounded slightly brittle

Stephen King on Adverbs for Dialogue Attribution

Below is Stephen King's take on the use of adverbs. His advice is to use adverbs very conservatively in order to keep the integrity of your writing intact.

"Someone out there is now accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.

I can be a good sport about adverbs, though. Yes I can. With one exception: dialogue attribution. I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special of occasions ... and not even then, if you can avoid it. Just to make sure we all know what we’re talking about, examine these three sentences:

‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.

The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately."

— Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft

How to Show Emotion Through Actions Instead of Adverbs

Since the use of adverbs can often make a writer look amateurish, many choose to use actions instead of adverbs to express emotion. Take, for example, the scenario below, in which a man is feeling frustrated and angry upon learning that his girlfriend has been unfaithful. In the first example, adverbs are used. In the second, actions.

"Where were you all night?" he asked.

"I was with someone else," she mumbled nervously.

"Someone else?" he boomed violently. "Someone else?"

or

"Where were you all night?" he asked.

"I was with someone else," she replied with her eyes downcast. She was fiddling with her fingernails.

"Someone else?" he said, slamming the table with his fist. "Someone else?"

It's easy to see that in most exchanges of dialogue, less is more. Let your reader imagine the actions the characters are making and infer the emotions those actions suggest, rather than telling them the emotion outright.

How do you feel about using alternative words for 'said' and descriptive phrases and adverbs?

See results

© 2009 ajbarnett

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    • profile image

      AtlasTheSpaceCat 

      2 weeks ago

      Lol I've been writing to the point where I forgot all my vocab. As soon as I stumbled onto this website and saw these words divided into sections, I was jumping in joy and showing my cat on what I have discovered.

    • profile image

      asian jesus 

      2 weeks ago

      this website very useful indeed

    • profile image

      Arshdeep 

      2 weeks ago

      Thank you, this site has helped me on my 8th grade ELA HW. For " UNIQUE SPEAKER TAGS"

    • profile image

      2 weeks ago

      nice

    • profile image

      Kayleigh Rush 

      2 weeks ago

      Amazing, helped with my stories!

    • profile image

      Eminem 

      2 weeks ago

      Lol I love how the comments take up 70% of the website page.

    • profile image

      Bandit 

      3 weeks ago

      Really good post op!!!!

    • profile image

      Goth 

      3 weeks ago

      This was really helpful!!

    • profile image

      Jordan 

      3 weeks ago

      Awesome

    • profile image

      Chris wright 

      4 weeks ago

      Im writing a story and well I always used the same word until I found this website, this website is amazing.

    • profile image

      dsfsdds 

      4 weeks ago

      Very useful...

    • profile image

      no name 

      4 weeks ago

      i am writing this for nothing

    • profile image

      maddie 

      5 weeks ago

      cool

    • profile image

      ann onymous 

      5 weeks ago

      really good

    • profile image

      MysticalBreeze 

      5 weeks ago

      ``Good morning`` The girl said with a cheerful smile to start the day off with. ``Good morning, Kirumei.`` He glared at the ceiling, avoiding eye contact with Kirumei. ``How are you, Today?`` He questioned her. ``I'm good, What about you, Big brother Kei?`` She replied, smiling like a idiot. ``I'm fine.. I guess.`` He said with a sigh of irritation, getting up. ``Lets get ready for school, Or else we'll be late.`` Kei would say, getting up.

      This is a piece I wrote, Not that bad. Technically you can use 'Said' Sometimes, but it'll get boring and the character wont have any emotions.

      Use this advice wisely.

    • profile image

      Anne Onymous 

      7 weeks ago

      This website is fantastic!

    • profile image

      Harmony1022 

      7 weeks ago

      this really helps with school work. I had to write a narrative story with a lot of dialogue and needed variation. it practically saved my life : )

    • profile image

      Ai no Starshine! 

      2 months ago

      Used to write "Said" all the time. Here. A piece.

      “And you healed too!” SAID a young, pink haired bunhead who fell out of the roof.

      “CHIBIUSAAA!! YOU CAME BACK!!” SAID Usagi hugging her tight.

      “Chibiusa…” I SAID mysteriously.

      TCH TCH TCH!

    • profile image

      somebody 

      2 months ago

      this is amazing i love this website it really helps me in my work

    • profile image

      N-o-b-o-d-y 

      3 months ago

      This helped me a lot I was looking for a another word for cried

    • profile image

      Takin' my time 

      3 months ago

      I've been researching, and I've found out that using said *SPARINGLY* is better than not using it at all. When you use all of these fancy words, it may not fit with the story, so don't be pressured to find the right word.

    • profile image

      ryan lee 

      3 months ago

      Thanks really help ed me

    • profile image

      Jasminn 

      3 months ago

      This is honestly so great, I use it all the time

    • profile image

      Julia 

      3 months ago

      I'm writing an actual book this helped ALOT

    • profile image

      J.K Rowling 

      4 months ago

      WOW. I just logged onto my laptop today and saw this on a notification, so I checked it out, and this is really helping me with my next story!!!! This really is great!

    • profile image

      Thunderninja 

      4 months ago

      YASS THANK YOU!! I love writing and this is just what I needed! So short and to the point!! #ninjago #miraculous #ninjacular

    • profile image

      Dan the Ice Cream Man 

      4 months ago

      Helped alot

    • profile image

      So cool 

      4 months ago

      This is great for my work sheet on better words than said and it is helping a lot with the work and I recommend other people use this site to. So try to use it as much as you can and let other people know about this site so thank you for this site.Thanks lots

    • profile image

      Chloe 

      4 months ago

      Thank you

    • profile image

      Kensingtony 

      4 months ago

      Love it

    • profile image

      Maddielynn 

      4 months ago

      hyes

    • profile image

      ihatemyself 

      4 months ago

      this is amazing for a fictional nnarrataive in 4th grade. I love hoverboards better than this cringy website

    • profile image

      Asia 

      4 months ago

      This is amazing

    • profile image

      Emma 

      4 months ago

      This was really helpful! I'm writing a story for school and my teacher said we are not aloud to use the word said for any piece of dialogue. So this has everything I need, Thanks!

    • profile image

      la 

      5 months ago

      I got an A on my assignment cuz of dis!

    • profile image

      awfl att engglis 

      5 months ago

      Awesome! This site helped me so much while I was trying to write a novel. Thank you so much!

    • profile image

      google 

      5 months ago

      thanks

    • profile image

      StreetSmart.BOOM! 

      5 months ago

      Stupendously helpful bro

    • profile image

      Kareena 

      5 months ago

      thanks so much i'm writing a story and i tend to use a lot of said lol but again thanks

    • profile image

      jeffy the puppet 

      5 months ago

      Thanks this helps a lot for school!

    • profile image

      famos justin 

      5 months ago

      I love this site. It helps me in though spots when I am typing a story or a paper.

    • profile image

      Abby Uranon 

      5 months ago

      not very helpful i wrote 15 words myself and i had to write 20 so not suggested!!

    • profile image

      bob 

      5 months ago

      I'm happy i found this site, you've been a real help

    • profile image

      JacBren 

      5 months ago

      its okay i guess

    • profile image

      A Google User 

      6 months ago

      SO HELPFUL!!!

    • profile image

      Name 

      6 months ago

      its cool

    • profile image

      Dragonlover4756 

      6 months ago

      Not very helpful. You might want to add some words for no emotion. although I do love the format of how you put the words for the emotions but I have seen other sites that are better that I might use. Most likely not this site again. But thanks anyways. -Dragonlover4756.

    • profile image

      mr]e 

      6 months ago

      THANKS helps me for school

    • profile image

      whyuyyyyyy 

      6 months ago

      this site helped me a lot, only wish they had more words to help me write my short story, but otherwise this is a great site

    • profile image

      Person 111111 

      6 months ago

      THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

    • profile image

      Person 

      7 months ago

      SO HELPFUL!!!!!

    • profile image

      ejsdufi 

      7 months ago

      You could do slurred

    • profile image

      RImda 

      7 months ago

      I love this site it is so helpful

    • profile image

      N.H (Hi I'm 13) 

      7 months ago

      Thanks! I am soooo happy that I came across this website! I cant wait to use all of my new found information to better help me write my book so my future readers can get the best experience whilst reading my book! Half of these words I would have never thought of, so thank you for that!

    • profile image

      Waffle 

      7 months ago

      What about pressed on?

    • profile image

      linda conner 

      7 months ago

      this helped thanks :3

    • profile image

      crazazy 

      8 months ago

      you could put harassed

    • profile image

      Brianna Bailey 

      9 months ago

      This did help me with my grammar in 4th grade. Thank you.

    • profile image

      ellie 

      9 months ago

      What about gushed?

    • profile image

      JackIBoy 

      9 months ago

      "Thanks for the advice!" I added (to the list of comments, that is).

    • profile image

      Kay 

      9 months ago

      This website did help me to find new words, But it doesn't give me the explanation of the words which confuses my friends and I.

    • profile image

      edder 

      9 months ago

      this helps me

    • profile image

      Garcia 

      9 months ago

      I like this

    • profile image

      BOI_MASTER 

      10 months ago

      THAT HELPED A LOT

    • profile image

      George 

      10 months ago

      THIS IS ABSOLUTELY SURELY DEFINITELY AWESOME.

    • profile image

      Insert Name Here 

      10 months ago

      I think this is really good and it really helped me but I've got two to add. Yapped and hopefully.

    • profile image

      Confused 

      10 months ago

      I Took the vote and the percents of the options added together is 101 instead of 100. why

    • profile image

      Your Name 

      10 months ago

      I've got another one. Yapped.

    • profile image

      poopoo 

      10 months ago

      Why is said on the list

    • profile image

      grey_elf 

      10 months ago

      The hardest dialogue situation for me is where you have three or more characters in a conversation. That's when "said" becomes, as you put it, annoying. I have yet to come up with a good way of reducing the use of said in multiple speaker dialogue situation other than by using an alternative word.

    • profile image

      mynameisjeff 

      10 months ago

      thanks it helped alot

    • profile image

      Food rools 

      10 months ago

      Thanks for the tips

    • profile image

      Maryum 

      10 months ago

      It is really good but you should give the meaning of these words too and also mention where to use them and how.

    • profile image

      WWriters 

      10 months ago

      Thank you1!!!!!!!!!1111

    • profile image

      Isabel 

      11 months ago

      I love this site!

    • profile image

      FoodIsGood 

      11 months ago

      thanks for the tips! :3

    • profile image

      Serena 

      11 months ago

      cool..............

    • profile image

      Kayla 

      11 months ago

      This website is AWESOME !!!!!! it helped me with my vocabulary.

    • profile image

      Cale Stelken 

      11 months ago

      A very helpful list, but I know a few more to include. For instance, why isn't "reflected" on here? I use that somewhat commonly. "Realized" would be another good inclusion.

    • profile image

      Jennerbob 

      12 months ago

      Best website ever helped me with ridiculously hard homework write 50 words for Exclamed

    • profile image

      Hey, 

      12 months ago

      Thanks for giving me some ideas on words to use for my 5th grade project!

    • profile image

      Cheryl A. 

      13 months ago

      This was seriously a great article, it's helpful. Couldn't have been put any better. God bless!

    • profile image

      wolfangelsword 

      13 months ago

      thank you. It helped me on my book I was working on.

    • profile image

      Asgher Khan 

      15 months ago

      Good effort and guidance for learners.

      God bless U

    • profile image

      juan (huan) 

      17 months ago

      "great article," he acknowledged

    • profile image

      The Anon 

      17 months ago

      This article has really helped me with my writing, I never was a good writer and only recently I started to really get into writing my own story, so this has really helped me refine my work.

    • profile image

      Thomas 

      18 months ago

      Thanks for the help glad I came across this Web site

    • profile image

      workingonproject2464 

      18 months ago

      thank you for these alternative words to use instead of 'said'. i was working on a project in class and my teacher told me never to use the word said. i really needed this. i may disagree about never using said but i still used these. thank you again!

    • profile image

      Robbie 

      19 months ago

      this really helped me write my own story project thank you so much i use this site everyday thank you

    • profile image

      Sarah 

      20 months ago

      This is really helpful!!!

    • profile image

      Hailey 

      21 months ago

      Thanks for the help—this is great for college essays!

    • profile image

      destiny jenks 

      23 months ago

      wow that is alot of words

    • profile image

      ash 

      2 years ago

      cool web site

    • profile image

      Counter Attack ;) 

      2 years ago

      You do not in fact have 550 alternative words BUT 679!

      THIS MESSAGE WAS FROM YOU'RE LOCAL Counter Attack.

      ^^^^^

      Count, get it? Get it?

    • profile image

      piano 

      2 years ago

      thanks this was so helpful

      another one to add: chanted

    • profile image

      Evan Bell 

      2 years ago

      Out of curiosity, what is your opinion on weaving action into dialogue, such as following said with 'pushing himself away from the table and walking to the window." I understand that such followups are technically covered in the adverbs, action, and details segment (as the title suggests), but, as a writer whose work is often rather dialogue-centric, I often fear that without these bits of action the conversations would begin to seem somewhat stagnant. Often the accompanying statement comes to encapsulate more than one action, unlike my earlier example, and becomes rather substantial, in a manner that I must say looks to me to be satisfactory. After reading this article, however, I've begun to wonder if the quality of my writing is suffering from it.

    • profile image

      hi 

      2 years ago

      great

    • profile image

      TimegirlRose 

      3 years ago

      Thank you for creating this website. It's been a big help, as my family can't help me edit my fanfic.

      I've also got a word to add; snorted.

    • profile image

      EH 

      3 years ago

      I found another list that may be useful http://ayrbray.com/2014/09/words-to-use-instead-of...

    • profile image

      Lynne 

      3 years ago

      Thanks a lot for your advice. I am writing a fantasy story and wondered if I was over using the word said. I feel a lot more confident after reading other comments.

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