Don’t Write Said, Use Synonyms Instead

Think back. Do you remember a high school teacher or university professor whose lessons stuck with you? One of my most influential teachers was Mrs. Carol Murray. She taught me both English and Journalism classes in Grades 11 and 12. She was kind, thoughtful, encouraging and didn’t let us get away with anything. Much to my Mum’s delight, Mrs. Murray assigned Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice as winter break reading and was the catalyst to my lifelong love affair with the novels of Austen, the Brontës, Dickens and their contemporaries.

Mrs. Murray, like me, found grammar lessons to be a necessary evil and worked with us to do a grammar intensive once each semester. While we both understood the importance of grammar, months long discussions didn’t inspire either of us. Those two weeks were a “swallow the frog” moment for sure!

One of the lessons I most remember is Mrs. Murray’s ban on the word “said”. Said. Say. Says. Saying. All were verboten. Characters in our stories and people in our articles never “said” anything. Instead, we had to use more descriptive synonyms.

At some point in those classes, I started a list of alternatives in the margins of my notebooks. Some came from examples in our text books, others from articles or novels I read. I’ve continually added to that list and here, for the first time, I’ve typed them all out in one master list. A Resource for Writers I hope other writers will find useful over and over again.

What “not said” words would you add?

  • accused
  • acknowledged
  • added
  • admitted
  • admonished
  • advocated
  • affirmed
  • agreed
  • alleged
  • announced
  • answered
  • apologized
  • approved
  • argued
  • asked
  • assented
  • asserted
  • assumed
  • assured
  • avowed
  • began
  • begged
  • belittled
  • blurted
  • boasted
  • bragged
  • broke in
  • cautioned
  • challenged
  • charged
  • chided
  • chuckled
  • cited
  • claimed
  • commented
  • complained
  • conceded
  • concluded
  • concurred
  • confessed
  • confided
  • confirmed
  • contended
  • contested
  • continued
  • contradicted
  • contributed
  • countered
  • cried
  • criticized
  • cursed
  • debated
  • declared
  • decreed
  • defended
  • delivered
  • demanded
  • denied
  • denounced
  • directed
  • disclosed
  • discussed
  • divulged
  • elaborated
  • emphasized
  • enumerated
  • estimated
  • exclaimed
  • explained
  • exploded
  • expressed
  • faltered
  • frowned
  • fumed
  • gasped
  • giggled
  • gloated
  • groaned
  • guessed
  • hastened to add
  • hastened to say
  • held
  • hinted
  • implied
  • implored
  • indicated
  • inquired
  • insinuated
  • insisted
  • instructed
  • interjected
  • interrupted
  • intimated
  • jeered
  • jested
  • joked
  • lamented
  • laughed
  • maintained
  • mentioned
  • mumbled
  • murmured
  • mused
  • muttered
  • narrated
  • noted
  • objected
  • observed
  • offered
  • ordered
  • persisted
  • persuaded
  • piped up
  • pleaded
  • pledged
  • pointed out
  • posited
  • postulated
  • praised
  • predicted
  • presumed
  • proceeded
  • promised
  • pronounced
  • prophesized
  • proposed
  • protested
  • proved
  • queried
  • questioned
  • quibbled
  • quipped
  • quoted
  • ranted
  • reaffirmed
  • reassured
  • recalled
  • recited
  • recommended
  • recounted
  • reiterated
  • rejoiced
  • rejoined
  • related
  • remarked
  • remembered
  • reminded
  • repeated
  • replied
  • reported
  • reprimanded
  • requested
  • responded
  • restated
  • retorted
  • resumed
  • revealed
  • said (Remember Mrs. Murray’s rule!)
  • scoffeed
  • scolded
  • shouted
  • shrugged
  • sighed
  • smiled
  • snapped
  • sneered
  • speculated
  • stammered
  • stated
  • stipulated
  • stressed
  • suggested
  • swore
  • teased
  • testified
  • thought
  • threatened
  • told
  • urged
  • uttered
  • ventured
  • volunteered
  • vowed
  • warned
  • wavered
  • went on
  • wept
  • whispered
  • yelled

Write on!