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

      Ai no Starshine! 

      2 weeks 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 weeks ago

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

    • profile image

      N-o-b-o-d-y 

      5 weeks ago

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

    • profile image

      Takin' my time 

      6 weeks 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 

      7 weeks ago

      Thanks really help ed me

    • profile image

      Jasminn 

      8 weeks ago

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

    • profile image

      Julia 

      2 months ago

      I'm writing an actual book this helped ALOT

    • profile image

      Asia 

      2 months ago

      This is amazing

    • profile image

      Emma 

      3 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 

      3 months ago

      I got an A on my assignment cuz of dis!

    • profile image

      awfl att engglis 

      3 months ago

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

    • profile image

      google 

      3 months ago

      thanks

    • profile image

      StreetSmart.BOOM! 

      3 months ago

      Stupendously helpful bro

    • profile image

      Kareena 

      3 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 

      3 months ago

      Thanks this helps a lot for school!

    • profile image

      famos justin 

      3 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 

      3 months ago

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

    • profile image

      bob 

      4 months ago

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

    • profile image

      JacBren 

      4 months ago

      its okay i guess

    • profile image

      A Google User 

      4 months ago

      SO HELPFUL!!!

    • profile image

      Name 

      4 months ago

      its cool

    • profile image

      Dragonlover4756 

      4 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 

      4 months ago

      THANKS helps me for school

    • profile image

      whyuyyyyyy 

      4 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 

      4 months ago

      THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

    • profile image

      Person 

      5 months ago

      SO HELPFUL!!!!!

    • profile image

      ejsdufi 

      5 months ago

      You could do slurred

    • profile image

      RImda 

      5 months ago

      I love this site it is so helpful

    • profile image

      N.H (Hi I'm 13) 

      5 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 

      5 months ago

      What about pressed on?

    • profile image

      linda conner 

      5 months ago

      this helped thanks :3

    • profile image

      crazazy 

      6 months ago

      you could put harassed

    • profile image

      Brianna Bailey 

      7 months ago

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

    • profile image

      ellie 

      7 months ago

      What about gushed?

    • profile image

      JackIBoy 

      7 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Kay 

      7 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 

      8 months ago

      this helps me

    • profile image

      Garcia 

      8 months ago

      I like this

    • profile image

      BOI_MASTER 

      8 months ago

      THAT HELPED A LOT

    • profile image

      George 

      8 months ago

      THIS IS ABSOLUTELY SURELY DEFINITELY AWESOME.

    • profile image

      Insert Name Here 

      8 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 

      8 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Your Name 

      8 months ago

      I've got another one. Yapped.

    • profile image

      poopoo 

      8 months ago

      Why is said on the list

    • profile image

      grey_elf 

      8 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 

      8 months ago

      thanks it helped alot

    • profile image

      Food rools 

      8 months ago

      Thanks for the tips

    • profile image

      Maryum 

      8 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 

      8 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Isabel 

      9 months ago

      I love this site!

    • profile image

      FoodIsGood 

      9 months ago

      thanks for the tips! :3

    • profile image

      Serena 

      9 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Kayla 

      9 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Cale Stelken 

      10 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 

      10 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Hey, 

      10 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Cheryl A. 

      12 months ago

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

    • profile image

      wolfangelsword 

      12 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Asgher Khan 

      13 months ago

      Good effort and guidance for learners.

      God bless U

    • profile image

      juan (huan) 

      15 months ago

      "great article," he acknowledged

    • profile image

      The Anon 

      15 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 

      16 months ago

      Thanks for the help glad I came across this Web site

    • profile image

      workingonproject2464 

      16 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 

      17 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 

      18 months ago

      This is really helpful!!!

    • profile image

      Hailey 

      19 months ago

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

    • profile image

      destiny jenks 

      22 months ago

      wow that is alot of words

    • profile image

      ash 

      22 months ago

      cool web site

    • profile image

      Counter Attack ;) 

      23 months 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 

      23 months 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 

      2 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 

      2 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.

    • profile image

      Anna-Grace 

      3 years ago

      That helped me a lot. Thank you

    • profile image

      tiffanyrose2015 

      3 years ago

      Awesome hub! :-)

    • profile image

      123454321 

      3 years ago

      how did i only just find this today?????? this helps so much!!! :)

    • Joseph Machney profile image

      Joseph Machney 

      3 years ago from Canada

      Thanks ajbarnett, this was just what I needed for helping me with writing my book. Perfect! Much appreciated!

    • profile image

      Lad. 

      3 years ago

      Thanks loads, this helped me a lot.

    • profile image

      Alalal333 

      3 years ago

      Wowser ajbarnett!!!! This is the best site for alternatives for said

    • profile image

      Geraldine 

      3 years ago

      Thank you for this awesome list, I'm doing my own writing and I just kept running out alternative words for 'said', but your list really helped thanks :')

    • profile image

      Madison Ward 

      3 years ago

      hey there. thank you for this amazing and awesome list of words to use instead of 'said'. I'm needing help with other words then said in a story I'm writing for my Home Economics class and this list really helped. thank you again and keep up the good work :)

    • profile image

      Pharme589 

      3 years ago

      Very nice site!

    • profile image

      Johnd849 

      3 years ago

      I feel that is among the so much significant information for me. And i'm glad studying your article. However should observation on few general issues, The website taste is ideal, the articles is in point of fact excellent D. Just right activity, cheers kaefkdaededg

    • LadyTreana profile image

      Theresa M. Odom-Surgick 

      3 years ago from Albany, New York

      Great information! Now I have to go back and look at my 'said'. Thanks much!

    • ajbarnett profile imageAUTHOR

      ajbarnett 

      4 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain

      So glad it helped. So many writers misunderstand what an invisible word 'said' is, and even more feel they have to explain who is speaking and how they say it, at every opportunity.

    • profile image

      Brooke18 

      4 years ago

      Very helpful! My first roughly-completed novel avoided the use of said in every way. I kept hearing from other people who read my manuscript that they felt it could be better. I see now that my substitution for said was unbelievably overused. I am going to start thinking about whether to use 'said' or substitute with the utmost care. Thanks so much!

    • profile image

      me 

      4 years ago

      interrupted is another word

    • profile image

      darkocean 

      4 years ago

      Thank you for this it is actually annoying to me to put in he/she said kind of stuff, unless its really needed of course. I just thought that you had to haha, well live and learn.

    • ajbarnett profile imageAUTHOR

      ajbarnett 

      4 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain

      I think you've missed the point, Titan. The idea of the article is to explain that OTHER words for said should RARELY be used. Said, is a little word that disappears to most readers - unless of course they are also writers searching text for alternatives...

    • profile image

      Titan 

      4 years ago

      OK but they should have added more

    • profile image

      somebody 

      4 years ago

      Thanks for the help, I write Online Fan Factions, and I'm afraid that my story is getting boring because I was limited on the words like 'said' 'yelled' 'retorted' and things like so. Nice Job!

    • profile image

      Jonathan 

      4 years ago

      Nicely done.

    • profile image

      Chou 

      4 years ago

      Squeal is also a good word instead of said. It does't seem to be one your list. like "Ann squealed with excitement when she saw her favourite band performing in the park"

      There's also screamed.

      Hope that helps! :-)

    • profile image

      ronald 

      4 years ago

      thanks this helps so much with bringing emotion to my story

    • profile image

      America 

      4 years ago

      Thank you this helps me continue writing my novel...sadly all I could think of as words instead of said was

      smirked

      mumbled

      says

      questioned

      asked

      Mostly simple words that are used every day

    • profile image

      Dark Bubbles 

      4 years ago

      wow awsome really helpful great article

    • profile image

      (= wild child 

      4 years ago

      it helped me on my poum for that i am thankfull

    • profile image

      Aman2272 

      4 years ago

      helped me lots on my book/ english paper so thanks !

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