Said Bookism

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"Are you lost, Daddy?" I asked tenderly.
"Shut up," he explained.

Ring Lardner, The Young Immigrants

"Said Bookism?" Alice interrogated. "What's that?"

"Well," Bob exposited, "it's a variety of Purple Prose in which the writer goes out of their way to avoid the word said."

"Why would they do this?" ejaculated Alice.

"Because," explicated Bob, "it was the fashion at one point. There were even 'said books' you could get mail order with lists of the words that can be used instead of said as saying said was discredited during that time. That's where the name of the trope comes from," he further proclaimed.

"But Said Bookism itself is a Discredited Trope these days?" Alice queried.

"Absolutely," confirmed Bob, "it's considered redundant," he proceeded, "because dialogue should speak for itself without needing fancy tags to convey its meaning and intention."

"That makes sense," Alice concurred.

"In the worst cases, the dialogue tags end up repeating what the dialogue itself is telling us," Bob stated in addition, revealing that in the worst cases the dialogue tags end up repeating what the dialogue itself is telling us.

"Are there any similar tropes?" Alice requested.

"There are!" enthused Bob. "It's not just like Purple Prose, but also sort of like Delusions of Eloquence and Author Vocabulary Calendar," he noted augustly.

"So where can I see what it looks like?" Alice inquired.

"Well," declared Bob, "right here..."

Examples of Said Bookism include:


  • The End Is Near uses a lot of these, but it's good enough that the reader can mostly ignore them.
  • My Immortal has a sequence of these in Chapter 6, which the dramatic reading inevitably lampshades.
  • The Lost Girl: Yes, Tinker Bell gets her own set of dialogue tags. Oh, brother!
  • Metroid High School, to a downright ridiculous extent. The word "said" is used maybe two times in the entire story.
  • Past Sins: "Offered" is used quite a bit.


  • The trope name comes from the Turkey City Lexicon, which lists it as a common mistake made by beginning writers.
  • The Tom Swift books were notorious for this, leading to the invention of the Tom Swifty.
  • Biggles does this all the time. Algy and Ginger might be guilty of saying things, but Biggles and Von Stalhein never are.
  • The Harry Potter series had a few notorious examples:

"We're not going to use magic?" Ron ejaculated loudly.
"Snape!" Slughorn ejaculated.

  • "Don't use this trope," How Not to Write A Novel advised repeatedly.
  • Twilight is most definitely guilty of this, as skewered expertly here.
    • The Host is just as bad.
    • Dave Barry's Twilight parody Fangs of Endearment does it on every single dialogue tag.
  • Stephen King voiced his disgust for this in On Writing: "Don't do these things. Please oh please. The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said."
    • He also provides the best example of doing it wrong: "'You fucking tease!', Bill jerked out."
  • The Inheritance Cycle is infamous for this, especially in Eragon. "'Sorry,' apologized Brom."
  • Occasionally, Timothy Zahn's otherwise excellent Dragonback Trilogy falls prey to this.
  • Warrior Cats falls into this sometimes, though this probably has more to do with the fact that the authors replace every instance of the word "said" with "meowed", which can get a little weird sometimes and the authors want to avoid that.
  • The fantasy author Robert Lynn Asprin is another who sometimes had problems with this.
  • Elmore Leonard includes in his Rules of Writing "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue." Another rule expands on that slightly: "Never use an adverb to modify the verb 'said.'"
  • The Eye of Argon. Nothing is ever "said" - instead it is "husked" or "ejaculated" or "stated whimsicoracally".
  • Atlanta Nights uses this quite a bit, as one of many deliberately bad writing techniques.
  • "The word said is to prose what the arrow of a word balloon is to comics", Neil Gaiman blogged.
  • The Great Gatsby is not only full of these, it's full of redundant ones, like "snorted contemptuously."
  • Fifty Shades of Grey is very fond of 'murmur', even using it four times on one page. People are also fond of whispering things.

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