ImageThe word said has an elegant, indispensable simplicity. It's a mainstay of the journalist's art: "Five out of five editors find the noun form of the word 'overwhelm,' currently in vogue among the nation's life coaches, completely unacceptable," said Dr. Carla Ridge, founder of SSOUON (the Society to Stamp Out the Use of Overwhelm as a Noun)." And in that context, exclusive use of "said" is appropriate and welcome.

DIGRESSION: There is no room in any sort of nonfiction writing for the construction "they said." (I am pained to admit that I have twice been hornswoggled into writing quotes for rock bands whose members felt they must speak as one. The results were tragic on both occasions). Unless you're talking about those twins in "The Shining" — "Come play with us, Danny" — there is virtually no instance in which "they said" makes sense.

Repetition of "he said" can get pretty dull, however, when you're telling a story, which can be disastrous when you're using that story as a means of promoting an artist or selling a product or service. So when "said" starts sounding tired, I refer to my trusty list of "said words."

It's actually called "Appendix 6: Writer's Helper," though I'm sorry to say I don't know its origin. When I started working in publishing, a colleague bestowed upon me those four typewritten pages of vocab gold.

The beauty of the said words is that each confers a unique variation of editorial intent; they all mean "said," but each provides a singular nuance.
Sometimes a said stand-in packs a wallop, driving a point home like John Henry raging against the machine.
Sometimes a said substitute is subtle, preferring not to call attention to itself: "he stated," "he added," "he continued," "he affirmed," "he allowed," "he asserted," "he contended," "he maintained," "he observed," "he remarked," "he commented," "he noted," "he determined," "he related," "he recalled," "he remembered," "he recollected," "he recounted."

Sometimes a said stand-in packs a wallop, driving a point home like John Henry raging against the machine: "he proclaimed," "he declared," "he expounded," "he exclaimed," "he pronounced." Sometimes it reinforces the mood of the quote for which it provides attribution: "he scoffed," "he confessed," "he insisted," "he complained," "he criticized," "he revealed," "he lamented," "he confided."

Some are utilitarian: "he explained," "he clarified," "he pointed out," "he indicated," "he confirmed," "he reiterated," "he concurred," "he emphasized," "he concluded," "he informed," "he reported," "he speculated," "he theorized," "he elaborated." And some are writerly: "he hazarded," "he enthused," "he quipped," "he mused," "he volunteered," "he averred," "he surmised," "he elucidated," "he opined," "he postulated," "he posited," "he illuminated," "he echoed," "he rhapsodized."

Alas, in my world — the nonfiction world — I cannot indulge in "he snorted," "he hissed," "he spat," "he whispered," "he screamed," "he wheezed," "he cried," "he whined," "he uttered," "he stammered" and their ilk. Nor, sadly, can I abuse said words for poetic effect, as Ring Lardner (pictured) did so brilliantly when he wrote "Shut up, he explained" in his 1920 book The Young Immigrants, or as Lynda Obst did so dryly in the title of her 1997 Hollywood memoir, Hello, He Lied. (Something you should not indulge in: "he laughed." This nonsensical cliché is almost as stilted as "they said.")

Fortunately, you don't have to be a literary lion to have your way with said words. If you season judiciously with them, your writing will be much tastier — and thus more effective — than the old "he said/she said."

For more said words, click here.

What are your favorite said words? Even amid the bounty of "Appendix 6," I'm always on the lookout for more. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it