Words to Use Instead of "Said"

Man whispering in a woman's ear
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It's common to use the verb "say" over and over again when writing dialogue. Not only is he said she said repetitive, but it's also not very descriptive. To better describe the feelings behind the reported speech and other statements in narrative writing, it's important to use vocal verbs and adverbs.

Vocal verbs and adverbs help provide motivation behind statements, questions, and replies and convey important information to readers. Each vocal verb and vocal adverb has a short description of typical usage, as well as an example statement illustrating how to replace he said she said with something much more descriptive.

Vocal Verbs

Vocal verbs provide information on the tone of the statement. For example, the vocal verb "moan" indicates that something is said in a complaining fashion in a low voice. These vocal verbs are grouped by a general indication of the type of statement made.

Speaking Suddenly

  • blurt
  • exclaim
  • gasp
  • snap

Examples:

  • Alison blurted out the answer.
  • Jack gasped in reaction to the scene.
  • I snapped a quick response to his question.

Providing Advice or an Opinion

  • advise
  • argue
  • caution
  • note
  • observe
  • warn

Examples:

  • Pete cautioned the children to be careful.
  • The teacher observed that the exercise was difficult.
  • The driver warned his passengers about the noise.

Being Loud

  • exclaim
  • bellow
  • call
  • cry
  • scream
  • shout
  • yell

Examples:

  • She shouted out the answer.
  • The boys screamed as they dived into the cold water.
  • The mother cried out in disdain when her son was accused of the crime.

Complaining

The following four vocal verbs are often used to describe someone complaining: 

  • groan
  • moan
  • mumble
  • mutter

Examples:

  • Jack mumbled his responses to the questions.
  • He muttered so badly that they couldn't understand him.
  • I moaned that I was hurt.

Speaking with Authority or Command

  • announce
  • assert
  • order

Examples:

  • The teacher announced the exam at the end of the week.
  • Jane asserted her rights as a voter.
  • The police ordered the protesters away from the area.

Vocal Adverbs

Vocal verbs provide information on the manner in which the statement is made. Vocal adverbs are often used to provide additional information on the feeling that the speaker has when making a statement. For example, the vocal adverb "joyfully" indicates that something is said with great joy. For example, He joyfully exclaimed the news! indicates that the speaker is happy when making the statement. Compare this to He arrogantly exclaimed the news, which conveys very different information about the speaker.

Common Vocal Adverbs

  • admiringly: indicates respect for someone
    Example: Alice admiringly noticed his clothes.
  • angrily: indicates anger
    Example: She angrily denounced his crimes.
  • casually: without much importance
    Example: She casually conceded her mistake.
  • cautiously: in a careful manner
    Example: She cautiously mentioned the extra homework.
  • cheerfully: indicates joy, happiness
    Example: Frank cheerfully agreed to do the job.
  • decisively: indicates a belief in the statement made
    Example: Ken decisively replied to the question.
  • defiantly: indicates a challenge to something
    Example: Peter defiantly taunted his classmates.
  • formally: proper, through official channels
    Example: Josh formally complained to the personnel department.
  • harshly: indicates critical judgment
    Example: The teacher harshly scolded the children.
  • meekly: indicates quietness, shyness
    Example: Jennifer meekly mumbled her apology.
  • offensively: indicates rudeness
    Example: Alan offensively argued his point about schooling.
  • sternly: indicates authority
    Example: The teacher sternly stated that all reports were due on Friday.
  • thankfully: indicates gratitude
    Example: Jane thankfully accepted the job offer.
  • wisely: indicates experience or intelligence
    Example: Angela wisely commented on the situation.