How to Anger English Teachers: Step 1

What is it with this maxim in creative writing to only use the word “said” for describing the action of dialogue? I hear this time and time again, and I’m just not buying it. Are words like” shouted” and “whispered” so distracting? But I wouldn’t stop there. I enjoy creative options like “spat” and” sobbed,” as well. The argument, I guess, is that readers are so easily distracted by interesting language that the moment they read that someone “chided” another, they’re immediately disconnected from the story. Really? Doesn’t descriptive language help to connect us more to a scene? Sure, you can go overboard with descriptive language and overwhelm the reader, but that’s really not what we’re talking about here. It’s a single verb. I feel like this is a case of either a) the ol’ bandwagon, or b) underestimating readers.

Caveat: I was an English teacher briefly and may well be one in the future.

One thought on “How to Anger English Teachers: Step 1

  1. What a shame! I believe that, at least in creative writing exercises, students should be discouraged from falling back on the simple “said”, and encouraged to use more descriptive variations, where appropriate.

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