Said Bookism... Huh?

“Said Bookism”. When I first started blogging, I saw other people posting about this and I sort of cocked my head to the side and went “huh? What does that mean?”

Basically, it means you're avoiding using the word “said”. You use just about every other word in the English language and avoid said. And let me tell you, my first draft was an absolute mess of “said bookisms”.

Here was my thinking - “gosh, typing said gets very dull. Why don't I mix it up a bit?”

So I tried to not use the word said... and it got a bit crazy.

See, the thing about the word said is it's perfect. You don't need anything else for the majority of dialogue because if your character is angry, it should come across in the speech itself. Where possible, all emotions and meanings should be clear in the dialogue. A teacher told me this in year eight, and I foolishly forgot it. And because I was using so many alternatives, when I really did need a different word to make an impact, I simply ran out of words.

I checked books I read. Said came up all the time, and it never bothered me as a reader. So why was I so determined to avoid it? Well, I'm an amateur still working on my craft, and published people know what they're doing!

So, what should you do? Use said! It's absolutely fine! Of course there are times when you'll need shouted, whispered, wept etc, but perhaps it's a good idea to save them for scenes when you really want to crank up the emotions or the tension.

Comments

  1. I use "said" all the time. Anything else and I feel like I'm reading from a Thesaurus.

    "Said" doesn't come up much in the Twilight books though.

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  2. I've read that it's best to use "said" and to skip out all the others. Like you said, the dialogue should be showing what's going on. When you use, whispered, shouted, etc, you're telling.

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  3. My rule of thumb is this: Only use a word other than "said" if absolutely necessary to convey the way the words were spoken. If it can be done by re-writing the speech, then do it. I think we're all on the same page here. :)

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  4. "...because if your character is angry, it should come across in the speech itself."

    So so well put. Often a said bookism is a tell used to instruct the reader on how to react to dialogue that is too vague.

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  5. You're right, no one ever minds if you use 'said'. You don't even register having read it, only its effect i.e. that the words were spoken.

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  6. I used to use other words as well, until reading Stephen King's ON WRITING and he said that said's just fade into the background and allow you to read the story without getting distracted. Your reasons are just further evidence for why SAID is so awesome. :)

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  7. Just commented on this same topic over at Wicked & Tricksy. You are spot on!

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  8. Kamille: Said is the best choice :)

    Melanie: Ah, yes - dialogue should show rather than tell as much as possible!

    Colin: Yes, we're certainly in agreement over this!

    Margo: Thank you. I think there are occasions when a said bookism does its job, but save them for when they're absolutely necessary.

    AJ Mullarky: Yes, said is completely unobtrusive.

    Kris: Said is an awesome word :D

    Nicole: Thanks!

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  9. Agree with the above posters - 'said' is invisible and doesn't stop me from getting into the story.

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  10. The East Coaster: Precisely! The fewer distractions, the more engaged the reader :)

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