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He Said She Said

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It's common to use the verb 'say' over and over again when reporting conversations. The use of he said she said becomes tiresome after time. Not only is he said she said repetitive, but it is not very descriptive. To better describe the feelings behind the reported speech and other statements in narrative writing, it's important to use vocal verbs and adverbs.

Vocal verbs and adverbs help provide motivation behind statements, questions and replies and convey important information to readers. Each vocal verb and vocal adverb has a short description of typical usage, as well as an example statement illustrating how to replace he said she said with something much more descriptive.

Vocal Verbs

Vocal verbs provide information on the tone of the statement. For example, the vocal verb 'moan' indicates that something is said in a complaining fashion in a low voice. These vocal verbs are grouped by a general indication of the type of statement made.

Say Suddenly

blurt
exclaim
gasp
snap

Examples:

Alison blurted out the answer.
Jack gasped in reaction to the scene.
I snapped a quick response to his question.

Provide Advice / Opinion

advise
argue
caution
note
observe
warn

Examples:

Pete cautioned the children to be careful.
The teacher observed that the exercise was difficult.
The driver warned his passengers about the noise.

Say Loudly

exclaim
bellow
call
cry
scream
shout
yell

Examples:

She shouted out the answer.
The boys screamed as they dived into the cold water.
The mother cried out in disdain when her son was accused of the crime.

Say Softly

The following four vocal verbs are often used as a complaint.

groan
moan
mumble
mutter

whisper

Examples:

Jack mumbled his responses to the questions.
He muttered so badly that they couldn't understand him.
I moaned that I was hurt.

Say with Authority / Command

announce
assert
order

Examples:

The teacher announced the exam at the end of the week.
Jane asserted her rights as a voter.
The police ordered the protesters away from the area.

Vocal Adverbs

Vocal verbs provide information on the manner in which the statement is made. Vocal adverbs are often used to provide additional information on the feeling that the speaker has when making a statement. For example, the vocal adverb 'joyfully' indicates that something is said with great joy. For example: He joyfully exclaimed the news! indicates that the speaker is happy when making the statement. Compare this to: He arrogantly exclaimed the news. which conveys very different information about the speaker.

Common Vocal Adverbs

admiringly - indicates: respect for someone
Example:
Alice admiringly noticed his clothes.

angrily - indicates: with anger
Example:
She angrily denounced his crimes.

casually - indicates: without much importance
Example:
She casually conceded her mistake.

cautiously - indicates: in a careful manner
Example:
She cautiously mentioned the extra homework.

cheerfully - indicates: joy, happiness
Example:
Frank cheerfully agreed to do the job.

decisively - indicates: belief in statement made
Example:
Ken decisively replied to the question.

defiantly - indicates: challenge to something
Example:
Peter defiantly taunted his classmates.

formally - indicates: proper, correct
Example:
Josh formally complained to the personnel department.

gloomily - indicates: without much belief in something
Example:
I gloomily remarked that I was aware of the problem.

harshly - indicates: critical judgement
Example:
The teacher harshly scolded the children.

jealously - indicates: wanting something that someone else has
Example:
Mary jealously whined the wanted some of the ice cream.

meekly - indicates: without much conviction
Example:
Jennifer meekly mumbled her apology.

mysteriously - indicates: mystery, unexplained situations
Example:
Susan mysteriously warned us about the town in Utah.

offensively - indicates: rudeness
Example:
Alan offensively argued his point about schooling.

sadly - indicates: sadness
Example:
Thomas sadly observed that his business was bankrupt.

serenely - indicates: peace, complete belief in something
Example:
Alice serenely responded to the investigators questions.

shyly - indicates: without conviction, shyness
Example:
The customer shyly complained about the food to the manager.

sternly - indicates: authority
Example:
The teacher sternly stated that all reports were due on Friday.

thankfully - indicates: gratitude
Example:
Jane thankfully accepted the job offer.

wisely - indicates: wisdom, smart decision
Example:
Angela wisely commented on the situation.

Lesson Plan and activity focusing on improving writing skills through using 'he said - she said - less often.

For more information on using reported speech (he said / she said), this overview of reported speech provides a guide on which transformations are required to use the form. Practice using this form with the reported speech worksheet that provides a quick review and exercise. There's also a reported speech quiz which provides immediate feedback on correct or incorrect answers. Teachers can use this guide on how to teach reported speech for help introducing the reported speech, as well as a reported speech lesson plan and other resources.

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