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Welcome to this week's FREE English lesson on the Web's best site for ESL students and teachers...

Topic:  How to Make Your Writing More Interesting, Part II: Using Different Words to Express "Say"

William said, "I have to leave now." 

Jennifer said, "You don't have to."

William said, "There is someone waiting for me."

Jennifer said, "But what about me."

This is a very boring conversation.  You neither know what they are talking about nor do you know how they are speaking.  Are they mad or glad?  Are they loud or quiet?  Are they upset or calm?  You simply don't know how they feel.  In addition, the above sentences are extremely boring and have no variety of grammar.  Unfortunately, lots of people write like this and don't know how to make it better.

First, use words other than "say."  Using the example above, let's say William is angry and Jennifer is sad.  Without changing what they said, we can still express their feelings by using other words for "say."  Take a look:  

William yelled, "I have to leave now!" 

Jennifer whispered, "You don't have to."

William screamed, "There is someone waiting for me."

Jennifer murmured, "But what about me?"

Now, do you know how William and Jennifer felt?  Do you feel the atmosphere of their conversation?  Of course, you do.  William yelled and screamed.  He was angry.  Jennifer whispered and murmured.  She was probably sad but calm.  You see that by just changing the word "said" into something more expressive and descriptive, the reader understands exactly how the speakers (or characters in a story) feel.  There are lots of words for "say" that can help you become a better writer.  Here is a list of some.


Directions: Read the description of the situations.  Then add an alternative word for "said."

1.  Situation: Donald is really happy because he had the winning lottery ticket.

Donald said, "I won.  I have the winning ticket."


2. Situation: George is really angry because his secretary threw out an envelope containing checks from customers.

George said, "Marcia.  Where is the envelope with this week's checks?  You threw them out."


3. Situation: Charlie and Sally are sitting on a crowded bus.  Charlie doesn't want anyone to hear what he said to Sally.

Charlie said, "Sally, I love you."


4.  The old lady was home and she saw a strange person come into her house.  She was very scared and surprised.

The old lady said, "Get out of my house."


5.  Your boss blamed you for all of the company's problems.  You know it is not your fault and you want to firmly but politely say that it is not your fault.

I said, "It is not my fault this company is managed so poorly."


6.)  Your classmate doesn't understand what the teacher said.

My friend asked, "What does 'break a leg' mean?"


1.  Answer: Donald screamed/shouted/yelled, "I won.  I have the winning ticket."


2.  Answer: George bellowed/roared/hollered, "Marcia.  Where is the envelope with this week's checks?  You threw them out."  

     Explanation: "Bellowed," "roared," and "hollered" are often used when the speaker is upset or angry and uses a loud voice, however, these three words do NOT necessarily mean the speaker is mad.


3.  Answer: Charlie whispered/muttered/murmured, "Sally, I love you."

     Explanation: "Mumbled" can be used, but it means to say things in a way that they are not only quiet but also not understandable (as if a person was speaking to himself).


4.  Answer: The old lady screeched/shrieked/hollered, "Get out of my house."

     Explanation: "Holler" means to yell, while "screech" and "shriek" mean to yell with a loud, high-pitched voice (like a car speeding then putting on the brakes).


5.  Answer: I declared/stated, "It is not my fault this company is managed so poorly."

     Explanation: These words give a firm but calm feeling.


6.  Answer: My friend inquired/queried, "What does 'break a leg' mean?"

     Explanation: "Question" is usually a transitive verb which means that an object has to be after it.  For example: My friend questioned the teacher...

Rules to Remember!

1 When you use the above words, they are usually with quoted speech.  Therefore, you use a comma and quotation marks.

Example: Einstein declared, "I found the answer!"

2 When using words that express a loud voice, use an exclamation mark at the end of the quoted speech.  When using questioning words, use a question mark.

Example: Fred yelled, "I got hit by the ball!"

                 Wilma inquired, "Where did it hit you?" 


When using the words above, make sure you understand the meaning and the implied feeling .  Some have different meanings and are used in different situations.

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