250+ Other Words For "Said" To Supercharge Your Writing
When writing dialogue in a story, the conversation is only half the battle. The other half has to do with the tone, volume, and context of people's words. Yes, most of the time you can just use "he said" and "she said" to indicate dialogue — but sometimes you need some other words for said to help you make a stronger statement!
That's where this post comes in: we've compiled over 250 other words for said to inject action and emotion into your dialogue, so readers will practically hear it ringing in their ears. These words are divided by category to help you find exactly the right option — and don't forget to read our bonus tips on how to tag your dialogue effectively! Now, go forth and jabber, croon, and effuse your way to captivating conversations between characters.
250+ other words for "said"
Neutral/multi-purpose words 🙂
Happy/excited words 😄
Sad/upset words 😢
Angry words 😡
Annoyed words 😒
Frightened/pained words 😨
Prideful words 😌
Words to express uncertainty 😕
Words that make fun 😛
Words that ask a question 🤔
Words that give an answer 👍
How to use other words for said
Now that your vocabulary has been refreshed, let's talk about how to actually use these words. Here are some tips for implementing other words for "said" into your dialogue!
1. Insert them sparingly
Even though you now have tons of colorful verbs at your disposal, the truth is that you should use unusual dialogue tags very sparingly. For one thing, as we mentioned in the intro, "said" is sufficient most of the time. And for another, you don't always need a tag, especially if you've already established who's speaking!
To see why you shouldn't use too many tags, descriptive or otherwise, take a look at the following dialogue sample:
“What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“What do you think I’m doing here?” she inquired.
“You know this isn’t going to work,” he sneered.
"I think you're underestimating me," she retorted.
The descriptive tags here are clearly overkill — you can easily deduce the tone of the conversation without them. But even using "he said"/"she said" four times in a row would be unnecessary in this case, as it's only two people speaking. A much-improved revision would be to keep just one tag, and identify the second speaker in a more indirect way:
“What are you doing here?” he demanded.
She stepped across the threshold. “What do you think I’m doing here?”
“You know this isn’t going to work."
"I think you're underestimating me."
The reader doesn't need many tags to see that this conversation is between two people. It's only in lengthy conversations of more than two that you may need to use "said" multiple times. And even then, you should still keep your "alternative" tags to a minimum, as they distract from the dialogue itself.
2. Ensure the word fits
Speaking of distractions, nothing is more distracting to readers than when a word just seems "off." This is why, when you do use a descriptive dialogue tag, it needs to fit the situation perfectly.
While this tip might sound obvious, editors can attest that odd verbs in dialogue tags are all too common. For example:
“I never want to see you again!” he exclaimed.
That might seem like a good place to use the word exclaim, since we know it means to say something loudly. However, the underlying connotations of "exclaim" are a bit different — an exclamation is usually a positive shout of surprise, not a negative one. Better tags for the dialogue above might be:
“I never want to see you again!” he bellowed.
“I never want to see you again!” he roared.
“I never want to see you again!” he snarled.
All of these depict the tone more accurately than "exclaimed." And again, you don't even really need such a descriptive tag, as the message here is pretty clear.
But if you do decide to use one, make sure you know what it actually means! This is where our list comes in handy — you know exactly which words are associated with which emotions and scenarios.
3. Break up with action beats
Another strategy to make these unusual tags work is to break them up with action beats, or descriptions of what characters are doing in the scene.
If you're not familiar with action beats, just look back at the revised example from tip #1! "She stepped across the threshold" is an action beat that shows the character's movement as she speaks, to signal that she's the one talking.
An action beat may appear before or after a line of dialogue, or even in the middle — just make sure to punctuate it properly. Here are a few more examples of action beats:
a) Murphy approached the stand and took a deep breath. "The defendant pleads not guilty, Your Honor."
b) "I was just trying," I said through clenched teeth, trying to control my frustration, "to help you out, for once in your miserable life."
c) "When are we going to the beach?" Sophie looked up at her mother expectantly.
Action beats are a useful alternative to bona fide dialogue tags, and a great way to mix up your scenes. That said, as with other dialogue indicators, you want to keep action beats to a minimum. In a typical scene, you might have one extra-descriptive tag and a couple of action beats. The rest should all be "he said"/"she said" and implied speech, to keep the pace moving along nicely.
4. Make "said" more interesting
Finally, one of the best ways to balance your use of alternative tags is to simply use "said" — but make it fashion! By which we mean, if you have the urge to use dynamic tags, redirect that creative energy toward making your "said"s a little more interesting. You might use action beats, as in example b) above, or you might use adjectives and adverbs to spruce things up a little.
Common descriptors to use with "said" include:
- She said with a smile.
- He said with a sigh.
- She said with a laugh.
- He said as he walked away.
- She said, shaking her head.
- He said in an [adjective] way.
Of course, you can replace any of these with more vivid, specific phrases — she said with a grin, he said as he trotted away, etc. And there are plenty more ways to accessorize "said" — he said with a salacious wink, she said as she crossed her arms, he said in a forlorn voice, she said with profound concentration. The possibilities are literally endless!
The same is true of adverbs, like "happily" and "quickly." However, many writers consider adverbs a mark of purple prose, so keep them to a reasonable minimum. You might use an adverb to modify "said" in a particularly dramatic situation ("How could you keep this from me?" she said furiously). But otherwise, verbs and adjectives tend to do the trick.
Infographic (to download)
For this infographic, we've narrowed down the 150 most essential dialogue words for you to know! Simply enter your email below to get it in your inbox within minutes.
The only way to really learn what works for dialogue is to practice writing it — but hopefully you have a better idea of how it should work after reading this post.
We hope you enjoyed ALL those tags, and that you take the advice about using them to heart! For now, we must bid you adieu. Or should we phrase it as: "Farewell," we lamented, "until we meet again!"
Which of these other words for "said" is your favorite? Comment, communicate, and confer below!