One of the pieces of writing “advice” that I’ve gotten over the years is “said is dead,” meaning don’t use said as a dialogue tag.
Instead, use descriptive words as the tag to describe how the person said their line. Try words like commanded, stuttered, or whispered. Each of those words evokes a different meaning or imagery than a simple “said.”
Yet, shouldn’t the dialogue itself be able to evoke the same emotion? Aren’t there vocabulary choices that can allow a reader to hear the character speak with an angry roar or a nervous tremble? Aren’t the fancy dialogue tags just another way to tell, rather than show, how a person speaks?
Perhaps said is used too much. Maybe switch it up with tags like stated or remarked. On the other hand, would you run the risk of sounding like you write with a thesaurus right next to you?
There is merit in using the word said. It’s used so often it’s become invisible, allowing the reading to skim it over and just absorb the words that are more important to the story, such as the key words in a character’s dialogue that show, rather than tell, just how he or she is speaking.
What do you think? Is said dead?