That’s What He Said – Turns out said isn’t a bad word after all
By Chris Joynson
Turns out ‘said’ isn’t that bad a word to use in your writing. I’m not quite sure where I first heard the advice to never use the s word, though its one I can remember seeing multiple times when I was first putting pen to paper as a writer. I got it into my head that using said was a big No No, and I still don’t like it all that much. Said is a boring word, its like ‘nice’, it floats on the page like a vague blob that’s neither good nor bad. It’s just nice. It’s just said. There’s no expression behind it, which is kind of the point.
See there aren’t really any bad words, ok there are plenty of bad words out there, but when it comes to writing every word has a purpose and can work if you use it right. Yes ‘said’ is an expressionless word, but sometimes you need that. Sometimes you just need to identify a speaker without coming up with some random action to justify naming them. Sometimes it’s the old adage of less is more, and this is where I’m the guilty party.
See, my aversion to using said lead me to go overboard in finding any other word to use in its place. Every character was exclaiming, or enquiring, or roaring, and there are times you can use that, but to do it all the time kind of reaches a point of ridiculous that’s just funny, I have learned this.
It’s all about finding the right balance, there’s no golden rule for when to use what word, because there are millions of factors that will affect what word you should use. What’s the pace of the scene? What is the character saying this like? What is your own voice as a writer like? Every word has a point and a purpose and we all use them differently, how I write something will be different to how you write something. The only way you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to your writing is just go for it. Keep writing until you find your voice, read other people’s work to see what you like and read out your own stuff to other people to get their opinion, take all of that and you’ll figure out what works for you.
Writing is a continual learning curve. You’ll never be done finding new tips and tricks to make your work better, because it can always be better, but what works for someone else might not necessarily work for you, so just try it and see. Eventually you’ll find your own way, and now I sound like a bad 80s pop song, so I’m outta here!