“Said” as punctuation

While I have a degree in Creative Writing, I came up through newspapers. AP style is designed to keep information flowing and to make reading as clear as possible. It’s why my Indeed proofreading score is only proficient (I struggle with the Oxford comma. It’s an unneeded pica, dammit!) and why I keep my paragraphs short, making my help on my kids’ 5-sentence paragraphs suspect at best.

But the biggest take away I have from that background is my overuse of “said” in dialogue. My reporting teacher told us all very clearly that every quote ends with: ,” ___ said. To just think of it as punctuation. Using anything else is flowery, superfluous and gets in the of way of the all important clarity. And again, back when letter count translated directly to available space on a page, “said” is four letters. “Replied” is seven; “answered” is eight, with a “w” thrown in to make it even longer and don’t even bother with “responded.”

As my work has become less AP-regulated, it’s been pointed out to me that my overuse of “said” is redundant. Boring sometime. So that’s lead me to stretch to find some way to replace it every three or four lines of conversation. The problem with that, though, is those other words have different implications than “said.” “Responded” has a different feel than said; “joined in” requires an entrance to the conversation. Most other choices are reactive. The result is, that if you’re talking about normal conversation, the only functional word is said.

Which is to say we need something else. We just need a new punctuation mark, maybe, something to just acknowledge who is speaking without having to use some form of speak or say. Or just a bunch of new words.

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