Over-Use of the word ‘Said’

Over-Use of the word ‘Said’

The He said, She said in writing is important in dialogue tags in keeping focused on who says what, but there are so many wonderful options to the stale ‘said’ verb. Another big no-no in writing is the over-use of the word said in dialogue. If you open up your WIP and do a Find for the word said and see hundreds of results, you have your work cut out for you. You may not need to, or be able to, get rid of every instance, nor would you want to, but you should try to get rid of a lot of them. The over-use of the word ‘said’ is a big tell that you are a newby author.

“I love ice cream!” she said.

This is a moment in time where many writers try to add adverbs, don’t.

“I love ice cream!” she said happily.

Instead, find a different word to use rather than said.

“I love ice cream!” she smiled.

But remember, while the above sentence is fine, you are a writer – embellish upon it with emotion so you can show the story and not just tell it.

After one bite, the sweetness tantalized her taste buds. Having never experienced this wonderful, icy cold substance her brain couldn’t contain its enthusiasm. “I love ice cream!” her eyes brightened. “Where has this been all my life?”

When you realize you are a thousand words away from meeting your quota and the story is 100% complete, this is the best way to go back and add to it while embellishing upon the emotion and adding to the character connection.

Another way to remove the extra said’s in your story are to simply erase them. Sometimes what you have written contains an action word which is enough. The word said is not even necessary.

                “Get out of here,” he said while running towards them.

                “Get out of here,” he ran towards them.

No Action or Emotion in Dialogue

Another little writer’s trick is having no action words or emotion in dialogue. This works well when there are two people having a quick conversation with little to no movement. It is used to pick up the speed of the story by not slowing it down. If your conversation looks like the below, simplify it.

“How are you doing?” She asked.   
“I am fine. How are you?” he responded. 
“I’m hanging in there,” she smiled. 
“Good to hear,” he acknowledged.  

“How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. You?”
“Hanging in there.”
“Good to hear.”

Not only did I simplify the dialogue by removing the speech tags, I also cleaned up the dialogue to give it more of a real-world flow. You can do that in conversation. This helps give your character personality as well.

One of the best ways to test if it works is to say it out loud, as if you were reading it to a crowd. If you spend more time saying he said and she said, than the actual conversation, remove it. Ideally, one day, you will be reading this in front of a crowd of adoring fans. You want it to sound just as good as when they read it.


  • Utilizing Word’s Find feature, type in the word said. It will show you each result of the word said and you should try to change it to a different word utilizing emotion or action instead.

This is just a sampling of our helpful writing tips. Continue this read by checking out our post about Adverbs and Show Don’t Tell