One day, Sam will move to the beach…

All the ways to say said

Fun story with a twist ending.

I worked with kids in an ELL program. That’s ELL for English Language Learners, not ESL/English as a Second Language, because for many kids learning English in the American school system, English isn’t a second language, but a third or fourth.

With one student, we were working through a novel intended for teenagers about her age. (16-18) She went through the words she knew easily, and her vocabulary was pretty impressive; after a year of English, she knew words her US-born contemporaries would have scratched their heads at. She liked to read, and it helped build her vocabulary a lot.

Anyway, every other paragraph or so, she’d stop and ask me what a word meant. And after a while, it almost became a game. Because every single time in this novel, the word she was asking about was a clumsy replacement for “said.”

“Don’t do that,” she yelled.

“I’m not angry,” he hissed.

“You can’t make me,” she growled.

“I didn’t mean to,” he sobbed.

Okay. Sometimes I understand this necessity. It’s important that he’s sobbing, and we need to know that. But seriously, there’s a limit–and there are better ways to say these things.

If my student would have to stop five times on every page of your manuscript and ask what that word means? You need to rethink some of your word choices

So stop it, okay self? Now get back to writing.

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2 Comments

  1. RC

    I think a lot of this issue originates from primary school. I distinctly recall having to write a story and use the word ‘said’ less than 5 times for the whole thing. It’s strange how these things stick in your mind and even now I have to fight the urge to avoid using said.

  2. Jason

    That’s an interesting way of thinking about that. Never occurred to me.

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