He said. She said.

Stated. Noted. Uttered.

Laughed. Chortled. Snorted.

The list of words that writers will come up with to attribute quotes is exhaustive.

As in, it exhausts me.

As young writers, we are taught to build our vocabulary, be descriptive and vary our word choice. But in attributing quotes, this advice can be dead wrong.

In almost every case “he said” or “she said” is the best choice to follow a quote.


First, many of the alternatives are just inaccurate.

Did your source really “laugh” through his entire sentence? Didn’t he get a little breathless?

Wouldn’t your source use a pen and paper, not her voice, to “note” her point?

And how, exactly, can a person “imply” the exact words that came out of his or her mouth?

Using “said” to attribute quotes is not boring or redundant — it’s accurate.

It’s also unobtrusive. As a writer, you should be selecting the direct quotes that are the most poignant and illustrative of your source — why would you distract from their words with flowery attribution?

Yes, there are exceptions. There will be a moment when your readers need to know that the source “whispered” a certain phrase. And, perhaps, “snorted” is both accurate and connotes a tone of sarcasm that wouldn’t otherwise come through in text.

Those cases, however, will be rare. The rest of the time, it’s best to avoid the temptation to overwrite.

“Keep it simple,” she said.


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