I ran across an interesting post on Twitter today.
It seems that using “said” in dialogue is still a disputed topic. I learned in high school to avoid using it. I learned in most college classes to use it when needed. I learned in creative writing classes that sometimes said is necessary, but it should be used sparingly.
So here’s my take and personal practice when using said, embodied in my tweeted reply:
I use “said” when something MUST be said and nothing else CAN be said. Otherwise, I avoid it.
I will concede that it depends on you and your audience: academic vs. creative writing. It also depends on how rigid you are about following the “rules” of the paradigm in which you’re writing. I’ve written plenty of academic papers, assigned by professors with asinine writing peeves, where I wrote what was necessary to defend my thesis. A few points were replaced with agitated notes from the instructor, but who cares? I defended my position, passed with A’s, and ultimately graduated.
I’m all for laws and rules (science, grammar, civil, etc.) They’re malleable and subject to interpretation; but they’re also the cheap dollar store glue that keeps civilizations functional.
Every language is different and has its own syntax and grammar. When I was sixteen, I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student, living with a German family and attending a German Hochschule. One of the classes I took during that year was English. I ended up with a “C” in that class as I discovered for the first time that British English and American English were different in a number of ways.
When it comes to your writing, don’t worry about little things like “said”. Use it or don’t use it. Just get your story and ideas down first, then edit the crap out of them. Your audience will decide if they like it or not.
It’s your voice. You choose how it sounds!