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Who should use said and who should not: Editor's Notes #346
August 18, 2021

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
—C.S. Lewis

In this issue:

1. Who should use said and who should not
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt
5. Letters to the editor
6. My Covid-19 offer to you

1.Who should use said and who should not
In the last issue, I listed some pros and cons of using a thesaurus to find synonyms. In this issue, I strongly suggest that fiction writers not use a thesaurus to replace the words say and said, while I argue that researchers and academic writers use words other than says.

Writers of fiction have complete control of what they choose to write. When what they write includes dialogue, they choose everything that makes up that dialogue, including the words themselves, the punctuation, the time and place the words are spoken, the body language of the speaker and listener, the audience within the story hearing the words, and if there is an audiobook version, the way the words sound.

For this reason, I call on fiction writers to use all the tools listed above to signal how readers should hear the dialogue in their heads. That leaves the writer free to simply use say and said while giving readers a richer reading experience.

Researchers and academic writers do not generally have the same purposes as fiction writers when it comes to what is within quotation marks and therefore do not have the same tools at their disposal. Reachers and academic writers primarily quote other experts. Also, in general, what is quoted has been written, although it is possible to quote someone speaking in a conference or an interview, for example. In either case, whether written or oral, the words must be quoted exactly.

Good academic or researched writing provides a context for quoted material. Part of that is how the writer attributes the quotation. With one word, where a fiction writer could write said, the academic writer signals to the writer how to view what is quoted. Consider these options: states, posits, argues, hypothesizes, reports, shows, highlights, underscores, emphasizes, and suggests. Can you see how each casts a different light on what follows? And of course, this is not a complete list of options.

A word of caution: Choose your attribution carefully. Why are you putting the quote into your writing? Use a word that signals your purpose to the reader. One word I hope you use only if you must is mention. One aspect of mention is that the comment is incidental. You had better have a compelling reason to use a quote that is incidental to the topic at hand. For reasons completely beyond my comprehension, mention seems to be a popular word in the academic writing I have come across as an editor.

Whatever you write, choose your words with care.

2.Tickled my funny bone
"I have a split personality," said Tom, being Frank.

3. Interesting Web site
Here is some good advice for those writing academic papers or other non-fiction arguments.

4. Writing prompt
Write a piece of emotional dialogue using on only said to show who is speaking. The challenge is to use the tools listed in the article above to indicate how those words are said.

I would love to see your result.

5. Letters to the editor
Hello Audrey,  

I totally agree with your comments, pros and cons for using a thesaurus.  

However, I might go a bit further to suggest that before selecting a synonym to use, that one checks the meaning in a dictionary. It can help reduce the misuse of the synonym.

That’s how I enriched my own vocabulary, way back when I started writing. Now, when I am helping other writers, when they have used the wrong word, I look it up in the (online) dictionary to explain the difference in meaning.  

Margaret Gregory
Managing Director
Tried and Trusted Indie Publishing
Rowville, Victoria, Australia

6. My Covid-19 offer to you
This is the last time you will see this offer in Editor’s Notes because this offer closes on midnight, Pacific Daylight Time, September 6, 2021. I will honour the offer provided your submission arrives by the closing time. If you have writing ready for an editor, this is a great time to submit it using the link below.

What follows is a copy and paste from issue number 309. The offer is still in force for you and anyone you choose to tell about it.

Along with the health threat hanging over the world, we are facing a huge financial hit. I’ve decided one thing I can do is to make quality editing less expensive during this trying time.

For subscribers to Editor’s Notes and their friends, I am suspending the fee for the sample edit to anyone using the code EN19 until I cancel this offer. I intend to keep this offer open as long as the world is in crisis with Covid-19 and its aftermath, so watch this space. I will give a warning here before I pull this offer. You can submit your writing sample at Be sure to click the link below the heading "Promotion Code" to get to the special form for a free sample edit. If you find yourself at a form before clicking the special link, scroll slowly back up the page, and you should see the link for the code (EN19).

But it gets better…

When I return an edited writing sample, I include quotes for the full range of my editing services. Until further notice, I will give a true quote, but I will not charge writers the full amount. I am discounting my services 50% for subscribers to Editor’s Notes and their friends. I will give a warning here before I pull this offer.

Feel free to pass this offer along to any writing friends you think may be interested. As long as anyone uses the code, I’ll honour the offer.

This is what I can offer you in this time of crisis. I hope it encourages you as you face possible illness and financial uncertainty.

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"mentions" states, posits, argues, hypothesizes, reports, shows, highlights, underscores, emphasizes, suggests,

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