491 Words to use Instead of Said. Sorted and Ranked.

Dialogue attribution pins a quote to a character. The most common, and best word, to use is said. With said, in the ranked list below, are an additional 491 words to use.

All you need to know is: Said, Asked, Replied, Yelled, Whispered.

With Said being the king of dialogue attribution.

I’m obsessed with verbs. Years ago I loved abusing verbs to carry dialogue.

No longer!

Here are 492 verbs you need in tiered ranks. The three columns are manner, rhetoric, and emotion.

  • Manner is how the dialogue sounds.
  • Rhetoric indicates the function of the dialogue in conversation.
  • Emotion has verbs that describe the character emotions.

God Tier — Use 90% of the time.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
SaidAsked
Use Said way more than Asked.

Great Tier — Use 7% of the time.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
WhisperedRepliedCried
ShoutedAddedJeered
MutteredBeganBlurted
SangExplained

Fine Tier — Use 2% of the time.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
YelledBossedScreamed
CalledRecitedJoked
PuledLiedWailed
SlurredQueriedBawled
MimickedToldScolded
SquealedRemarkedVowed
HolleredArguedImplored
PrattledInterruptedCajoled
SplutteredTriedBegged
MumbledRequestedFumed
LispedAssentedTaunted
MewedAcceptedRetorted
RoaredReadRanted
CackledQuotedRaged
ChantedReckonedInsisted
StammeredRecountedSassed
BanteredRemindedCoaxed
BoomedOpinedDenied
CroakedCoachedExulted
BarkedExpressedBewailed
HissedGuessedGushed
HuffedDivulgedWhined (Whinged)
SqueakedAdmittedSobbed
BitConfidedSnapped
SpatDisclosedBlasted
YelpedDictatedWept
ShriekedRespondedUpbraided
DrawledInsistedPled
HowledNotifiedEntreated
GrowledPressedSniveled
GroanedMentionedTeased
PipedInstructedGagged
ScreechedDescribedThreatened
ShrilledDemurredWarned
ThunderedPuzzledScoffed
BabbledReportedChided
PurredSurmisedBickered
HummedNotedBoasted
EchoedRejoinedLaughed
PantedObjectedUrged
HeavedAdvisedCussed
LeeredHintedCursed
IntonedProposedChallenged
PeepedRecalledPrayed
QuippedWheedledPleaded
MoanedToastedGrumbled
BlubberedCommandedTempted
ChattedInquiredDared
ChatteredWonderedSwooned
RaspedInformedMocked
TrilledDeclaredShot
StutteredSpokeCooed
PromptedWhimpered
SuggestedCautioned
ClaimedGibed
Pointed outMarveled
ReassuredWhooped
ReasonedPraised
CounteredRejoiced
AppealedRidiculed
WishedMused
Went onChimed
ContinuedProtested
RipostedRibbed
CorrectedBurst
CommentedAttested
ClarifiedCrowed
CounseledFlattered
RidiculedProfessed
Concurred
Disputed
Provoked

(Barely) OK Tier — Use 1% of the time.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
YowledQuestionedCountermanded
ChokedAnsweredApologized
RumbledLecturedConfessed
QuakedObservedGriped
SniffedConfirmedSnobbed
Spelled (Out)AllowedSimpered
EnunciatedBetJested
GaspedRememberedFlirted
MurmuredVolunteeredExaggerated
ChewedWelcomedSnarled
WheezedAllegedSwore
YawnedTestedBeseeched
LiltedWent onExploded
GurgledAdvertisedOrdered
ArticulatedAddressedStormed
ExclaimedEstimatedDenounced
TwitteredExactedCondemned
UtteredPostulatedBadgered
ProclaimedIntimatedOogled
BellowedImportunedEgged on
SibilatedBroadcastedAssured
StatedCertifiedKeened
JoshedDeliveredScrutinized
GuffawedDenotedMarvelled
GiggledDisruptedWooed
ChortledDisseminatedLamented
AnnouncedDistributedDemanded
BreathedIndicatedReflected
GruntedPremisedCrapped
SighedPresentedTrailed
BlatheredPresupposedEmpathized
IntonatedGreetedContemplated
CaterwauledProbedContended
QuaveredProfferedGrimaced
PronouncedPromulgatedSmirked
ChitteredPublicizedGrinned
CoughedReleasedSmiled
CluckedReprimandedNodded
FalteredSearchedScowled
YakkedSharedCringed
YappedSoughtCowered
RambledSpecifiedBeamed
JabberedVouchedComplemented
NatteredTransferredCongratulated
Rattled onTransmittedCheered
Harped onSanctionedApproved
Nattered onVenturedWorried
DribbledOfferedVacillated
BurbledQuizzedSeethed
ChirpedPut inAvowed
ChirrupedThought out loudAsserted
ChuckledImpliedMourned
DeadpannedMotionedGloated
BleatedImpartedTattled
ElocutedConversedFretted
BandiedContributedComplained
WarbledSpeculatedEncouraged
BlusteredHypothesizedChastised
SneezedMaintainedBragged
SnortedAbnegatedNeedled
VoicedDefendedProdded
MouthedAffirmedRetaliated
SputteredTheorizedGroused
SniffledTestifiedForgave
ChorusedRestatedBubbled
GawpedPonderedShuddered
PepperedNoddedAccused
EffusedAcquiescedRefused
StressedFinishedAvered
NaggedPromisedAgonized
ImitatedRevealedAffirmed
SnickeredRepeatedComforted
StartedThanked
PersistedReckoned
AgreedCarped
DisagreedShivered
ConcludedInsulted
DecidedGoaded
InterjectedPestered
DebatedGrieved
DirectedConsoled
Verified
Reminisced
Insinuated
Deliberated
Related
Deflected
Conceded
Reiterated

Worst Tier — Don’t use.

MannerRhetoricEmotion
StumbledEndedSneered
ResoundedAlliteratedSulked
RhymedThought (Yes, I found this recommended.)Undertook
TrembledCensuredShrugged
GulpedHeldForetold
DrippedNecessitatedDoubted
OozedPointedTormented
HesitatedPublishedGrizzled
MonotonedRequiredRemonstrated
VociferatedRequisitionedSympathized
EmphasizedCommunicatedExasperated
AcknowledgedInclined
ConvincedDisposed
NegatedSpilled
Assessed
Considered

Some reflections on using this list

  1. Overall, Manner is better than Emotion which is better than Rhetoric.
  2. Less is more. Dialogue attribution should be used when the speaker is unclear, there is a change in dynamic, and there is irony between what is said and how.
  3. Don’t you dare use a verb that isn’t on this list, the worst tier is bad enough as it is. I don’t want to go about adding more because you want to use the adjective grizzled as a attribution verb. DEAR GOD. If you can’t find a verb that isn’t on this list and someone, anyone recommended you to use it, they are wrong.
  4. All the verbs I have found in the wild or were recommended on internet lists. The absurdity of many verbs are the fault of click-baity writers. None of the verbs in Worst Tier are bad. They must not be used for dialogue attribution. They are better literally anywhere else. The fact some yahoos recommend those words grinds my gears.
  5. Within reason, each word could easily fit into two or three columns. This is a principled rank and order. With all creative pursuits you got to do your own thing. Trust your own voice. =))

The reason why such garbage words are recommended online is because finding a new verb for dialogue attribution is a middle school assignment. The point of the assignment is to learn new words. Not write good prose. Other reasons include building a large list to seem smart.

When in doubt use said. Whoever said use something else instead of said should be dead.

That’s all.

Photo Credit: John Evjen

7 More Useful Verbs

While I edited Jacob’s Quest I removed weak and repetitive verbs with new ones.

All of the examples are from the wild. They aren’t made up, I found them in my writing and corrected them.

seem, appear, look, sense, feel, overcome, overwhelm, have happened, occured, was, felt, think, ponder, erupt, pause, laugh, and crack.

Remove Weak Verbs

Some verbs I wrote couldn’t pull the sentence together. Here are a few I noticed.

Dressed

Saying a character was clothed is passive. Clothed is a strange verb, even used actively, it sounds peculiar. Blue robes clothed him.

This example has the added benefit of removing repetition of ‘cloth’. (In clothed to clothes)

He was clothed simply but his clothes…He dressed simply but his clothes…

Dressed is an excellent verb. It puts the character in the drivers seat of how they present themselves. The character makes choices to solve problems, including the choice of how to dress.

Felt

I do not mind directly stating the character’s emotions. Writing ‘He was sad.’ is far better than being needlessly poetic.

With watery eyes, he slumped.

Blah blah blah. Get to the point. Now, you might say this is wrong, and cite Show don’t tell as a defense.

Have you considered what you want to show?

You want to show a character rising to the occasion and solving his inner turmoil and outer conflict. Sometimes this requires telling the reader he is sad. It is efficient.

You don’t want to show is confusing prose and constant digression. If required, be direct.

What isn’t required is using ‘was‘ all the time.

“You see I love these mountains too,” the giant said after he was comfortable…“You see I love these mountains too,” the giant said after he felt comfortable…

Along with being a verb that describes action (Feeling something), to feel is an emotional verb. Beyond directly describing emotions, it can be used abstractly as well.

The princess felt silly she has took so long.

It works because when you are happy, you feel happy. Like with dressed, feeling puts the character in the spotlight again. They feel emotions. If the reader emphasizes with them, the reader will feel the emotions as well.

Seem

‘Quibblespek looked fazed’, or ‘seemed fazed’?

‘Seem’ is a linking verb, like ‘to be’ (is, was). Linking verbs don’t describe the action of the subject, just their state. Seem acts like a state-of-being verb. This is nothing to be afraid of. Having verbs that act as linking verbs focuses the prose.

In my first draft I had plenty instances of ‘was’ and no instances of ‘seem’. To make it sound better, I varied my verbs.

When Bayo didn’t lunge at Sertin for fifteen seconds, the knight’s comfort grew. He felt like he could stay, especially since George looked comfortable.Bayo waited. The knight’s comfort grew. He felt like he could stay, especially since Jacob seemed so comfortable.

There is the use of felt in this passage as well. Part of me wrote seemed so comfortable just because I liked how it sounded.

Erupt

My first draft had many sentences like, ‘And then it appeared that they started to begin to start laughing suddenly’. I exaggerate, but the spirit is true. I used ‘to start’ far to often when nothing was better.

Most of the time I just removed start and the sentence worked fine. Unless a character laughed from the beginning of time they must have started at some point.

Everyone, who was laughing throughout the fight, started to cheer and clap. George took off his own helmet and the bandits crowded around him.Everyone laughed throughout the fight. At the end, they erupted once more in a cheer and clapped. Jacob took off his own helmet and the bandits crowded around him.

I feel clever using this example. I contextualize the crowd as laughing. If I wrote, ‘they laughed’ it would be redundant, and if I wrote ‘they started laughing’ it would be downright confusing.

Long story short: I like erupt because it is a violent start.

Led

Jacob starts as a follower and ends as a leader. It was a simple choice to write ‘Jacob led’.

With all farewells concluded, Jacob and his went party south west.With all farewells concluded, Jacob led his party west.

Easily much better.

Lay

Lay and Stood I have been peppering in to replace boring instances of ‘was’. Because my knowledge of verbs are limited when I wrote the third draft, all of my things were something.

The fourth draft I changed that and put in better words.

It was perfectly flat…It lay perfectly flat.

Stood

Just like lay, I use stood to place characters, well, in place.

It [The Stone] was conspicuously beside an opening into the mountain range.The stone conspicuously stood beside an opening into the mountain range.

I will find more verbs.

That’s all for now.