Dialogue Tags: 100 Ways to Say “Said”

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Be sure to read my post from yesterday, where I suggested that good writers use few dialogue tags to indicate who is speaking, and when they do, they rely on trusty old said and occasionally asked.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with mixing it up on occasion — especially when how something is said is particularly important and not sufficiently clear through the dialogue itself. Writers young and old need help sometimes with alternatives to said, so I created an official WriteAtHome List of Dialogue Tags.

Plus, it was kind of fun to come up with them. If you enjoy it, please feel free to share. I’ve put it on our Pinterest page too, of course.

Update: If you like this, you’ll also like:

250 Ways to Say Went

100 Ways to Say Bad

WriteAtHome students write better. Check out our website!

Dialogue Tags

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About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Nicky Colon
    Nicky Colon12-10-2013

    THIS HAS HELPED ME A LOT ON MY HOMEWORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Estie F
    Estie F10-24-2013

    How about informed? Like:
    “She is coming tomorrow,” he informed.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko10-24-2013

      If you are going to use that word, I suggest you use it as a transitive verb, which means it requires an object (normally we inform someone or something; we don’t just inform). But it might work. Personally, I think “said ” is usually the best option.

  3. Brittany Wilson
    Brittany Wilson09-22-2013

    Is it possible to put rasped on here? You can use it in sentences. Like:

    Katrina rasped, “Go. Before it’s too late.”

    But thanks for the list! I love it. :D

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko09-22-2013

      Sure, Brittany. This list isn’t intended to be comprehensive. There are other ways to say “said” — like “rasped.”

      Thanks for sharing.

  4. Rachel
    Rachel08-10-2013

    Hi Brian! I love your posters! Can I purchase them for my classroom? I am a speech and language therapist in middle school high school and think the kids would really benefit from such an awesome visual.
    Please let me know!
    Thanks!

  5. Ingrid
    Ingrid05-17-2013

    Love it! I love your website for all the help I can provide for the young writers in my home :-)
    Thank you!!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko05-17-2013

      You are welcome. Thanks for taking the time to leave such an encouraging note.

  6. Magic and Mayhem
    Magic and Mayhem03-22-2013

    I love that you have a previous link telling folks why you SHOULD usually use said, but this is all over Pinterest and I’m one of the many who just repinned it as good advice before really thinking about it before today. I read this article today: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/just-visiting/said-not-dead# and went to my Pinterest boards and deleted all of the well-meaning pins about “said is dead” and “what to write instead of said.”

    I’m afraid homeschool parents and teachers have been scurrying around like mad, printing this and teaching our kids that they should be using all of these words instead of that “boring” said. I should know better than to pin things without going to the link first, but how many folks really do?

    Anyway, I’m glad to see that in your post you sort of take it back. ;)

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko03-22-2013

      I know, M&M. I am somewhat guilt-ridden over this. The truth is, I have always thought and taught that writers should generally stick with “said” if they absolutely must use a dialogue tag at all. I created the graphic because in coming up with examples of how NOT to do it, I realized how many options there were. I wondered if I could come up with 100, and when I did, I wanted to show it off.

      Now it’s running amok on Pinterest and I feel responsible for promoting the silly notion that “said is dead.” I am a hypocrite.

      Then again, people will do what they like and if they prefer to belabor their dialogue with distracting tags, that’s their right.

  7. Peter Selgin
    Peter Selgin03-12-2013

    Goodness—now I know why all my students are twisting themselves into pretzels to avoid “said.” Sorry, but this is really bad advice to give to young writers. The word “said” is one of the most useful words in the language. It is the silent butler of dialogue—discreetly serving us the voices of our characters. To say that “laughed” is an appropriate synonym is simply false. One does not “laugh” dialogue. “Yelped,” “sobbed,” and “ruminated” are equally bad. If you want an example of a writer who successfully shuns “said,” I suggest Nelson Algren who, in the entirety of his National Award Winner THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARMS avoids the word. On the other hand Robert Stone, no less great a writer, used no other “tag” (“attributive”).

    Folks—don’t avoid “said.” Or anyway don’t avoid it because someone told you to. That repeating words on a page is death to good prose—that good writers spend their days with their noses buried in thesauri searching for synonyms—is a notion embraced only by amateurs. Use the RIGHT word—even if it means using it again and again. That’s my advice. And good luck to you.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko03-22-2013

      Hi Peter, I don’t know how I missed your comment until now. See my note to Magic and Mayhem and please click through to my original article. We are actually in agreement. I prefer dialogue without any tags a la Faulkner and McCarthy, but if one is needed, “said” is almost always the best, most discreet option.

      On the other hand, most folks who resort to graphics like this I’ve hypocritically created are using them with very young writers who are just spreading their literary wings. Those with an ear will eventually learn to reign in their exuberance in such matters.

      You are right about tags like “laugh” and “sobbed” in the literal sense, but why must we be limited to the literal in crafting fiction?

  8. Jess
    Jess02-02-2013

    Thanks so much for sharing these lists! I found them on pinterest and was able to print it on 8×11 by cropping each page by using Print Screen. Not as pretty but good for a homework folder!! What fun for a child to add these to their stories!!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-02-2013

      Thanks for the encouragement and the printing tip, Jess.

  9. Noel Lenhart
    Noel Lenhart01-30-2013

    This is awesome! Thank you so much! I would love this as a printable for my daughter’s writing notebook!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko01-30-2013

      Thanks, Noel. If I made it printable, it wouldn’t be as pretty. Is that okay?

  10. Casey Yano
    Casey Yano01-27-2013

    THAAAANK YOUU :)

  11. jessica
    jessica01-20-2013

    lav dis list s0 much thanx 4 it !!!!11♥

  12. Georgia
    Georgia01-18-2013

    I love this visual! Wish it were for sale. I especially like that it’s long and narrow. Thank you for posting.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko01-19-2013

      You’re welcome, Georgia. Stay tuned. I may make print versions available yet. :)

  13. Debbie
    Debbie10-03-2012

    How did I miss this post?!? Thank you so much for putting this tool at my fingertips. I find “he said” and “she said” so boring. He grumbled/howled/laughed/muttered paints such a vivid picture. As a visual person and writer, I need to see and feel the words. Now, I’m off to “pin” this post (can you see me skipping?).

  14. Mary Brueggemann
    Mary Brueggemann09-13-2012

    I have a question for you. I remember being taught that you can’t laugh words or giggle words, so you shouldn’t write something like the following:

    “I tricked you,” Joan laughed.

    Instead you’d do this:

    “I tricked you,” Joan said with a laugh.

    What’s your opinion?

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko09-14-2012

      Hadn’t thought of that before, Mary. The rule you cite makes sense, but it seems a bit too literal to me — certainly you can say words in a laughing way and it would be okay to say “he laughed.”

      But as I’ve written. I like “said.” I recommend sticking with bland dialogue tags as much as possible; so, I’d prefer “said with a laugh” or “said, laughing” to “laughed” in most cases.

      Good question.

  15. T. Calli
    T. Calli09-08-2012

    Wow! Thanks so much for your work. It’s a pleasue to simply look at your word bank for all these word choices. This will inspire so many writers, young and old and those who strive to be great teachers.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko09-08-2012

      You are most welcome. It was actually kind of fun to make. I’m thrilled to see how much it’s getting passed around. :)

  16. B. Miller
    B. Miller09-08-2012

    Love the list! Thanks for sharing!

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