Donde dije digo, dije digo. No lo exclamé

"I had an email from Colin Taylor in response to the part of my book, "Your Writing Coach," in which I endorsed Elmore Leonard's advice to use "said" as the standard dialogue attribution, and seldom anything else (Like, "You don't mean it," he laughed/chortled/exclaimed).

Colin writes, "I have been a primary school teacher for 33 years and over the last 5, a supply (substitute) teacher. The interesting thing is that teachers are teaching children to always use something more interesting than 'said.' In fact anything other than said. Now obviously most of the children so taught will not end up writers, but some will. Did you know about this and could you comment on it, as I have found myself writing a whole variety of synonyms for 'said' in my own writing."

No I didn't know that, but it explains a lot! (That's me, exclaiming.) The thing is that most of the time, we just "say." And if we laugh, it's not exactly at the same moment that we are saying the words, so it's much more accurate to write, for example, "I hope you don't blame me," Lydia said, laughing--rather than, "I hope you don't blame me," Lydia laughed.

Most of the synonyms for said, such as asserted, babbled, croaked, divulged, hinted, insisted, pointed out, snarled, etc., either sound archaic or just don't fit most of time. When you use them they call attention to themselves rather than to what was said. And after three or four of them, we start to picture the author with a thesaurus in his or her hand.

While a whole bunch of "saids" may stand out on the page, when we read they basically disappear. Most of the time they're attached to a name and that's really what we want to know: who's talking? The best writers write dialogue that itself gives us a clue as to how the words were said".