He Said, She Said: How to Avoid Using ‘Said’ in Direct Speech

Hi! How are you? I understand that most of you are busy revising for your common tests. I hope that you are taking care of yourself despite your busy schedules.

For this week, I am going to focus on the use of direct speech in writing, specifically on using more vivid verbs and adding an action or facial expression to the speech. I know that most of you must have been told to use direct speech in your compositions to make the action more interesting and the characters more real. However, some of you tend to write like this:

“You need to leave now,” Mary said.

So what can you do? Try following these two steps:

Step 1: Use vivid verbs

Avoid using basic words like ‘said’, ‘told’ and ‘asked’. Find a more precise word that tells the reader how the person expressed those words.

In the example, we do not know how Mary was feeling. Could she be angry or afraid? Let’s replace the word ‘said’ and see what happens:

  • “You need to leave now,” Mary snarled.

    Snarled’ tells us that she was angry.

  • “You need to leave now,” Mary whispered.

    Whispered’ indicates that she might be afraid or worried.

‘Snarled’ and ‘whispered’ are better words because they tell the reader how Mary was feeling at the time of speaking.

Step 2: Add an action or a facial expression


avoid using said in direct speech

After finding a better word than ‘said’, you can add an action to the direct speech. The action should further illustrate the character’s feelings. For example:

  • “You need to leave now,” Mary snarled as she pushed me roughly out the door.

    In this instance, the action further emphasises Mary’s anger.

Alternatively, you can add a facial expression. Similar to the action, the facial expression should convey the character’s feelings. For example:

  • “You need to leave now,” Mary snarled, her eyes lit up with fury.

    The phrase ‘her eyes lit up with fury’ indicates Mary’s anger towards the person she is speaking to.

Remember that writing well comes with practice, practice and more practice! Try these 2 exercises below:

Practice 1: Replace ‘said’ with a more appropriate word.

1. “I won first prize in the race!” Kumar said.

2. “Please help me. My leg hurts,” the little girl said.

3. “I don’t want to go to school,” Sue said.

4. “You have to finish your homework by tonight!” Mother said.

5. “I was the one who took your wallet,” my classmate said.

6. “That was the worst show I’ve ever seen!” the man said.

7. “Not this again! I’m so bored!” Jake said.

8. “Stop making so much noise!” the teacher said.

Practice 2: Try adding an action or a facial expression to these sentences.

1. “Why did you cheat in the test?” Father roared.

2. “I have lost my money and now I can’t go home,” my best friend sniffled.

3. “This is the best birthday present ever!” she squealed.

4. “I don’t think I can present my speech in front of all these people,” Billy muttered.

Check your answers and replace ‘said’ by filling up the form below:

Replace 'Said' and Check your Answers!

Sign up with your email address to receive your FREE Answers to Exercise Questions with Explanations!

Thank you! Your FREE FREE Answers to Exercise Questions with Explanations are sitting in your inbox waiting for you!

I hope this post will come in handy when you are writing direct speech for your compositions. Till next time, take care!


Ms. Nora

Nora is an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. She is committed to providing students with a dynamic and nurturing environment in which they can grow and develop. One of her greatest strengths as an educator is instilling a love for the English Language in her students.

Have something to share? Drop us a comment below!

Leave a Reply


Other related posts

5 Tips To Help You In Your Primary English Exam Revision
Authentic Learning Activity | Editor on the Move!
Free News Sources for Kids
Holiday + Learning = Fun!
Primary 4 Marching Onto Primary 5: Changes You Need to Know for English
Continuous Writing | 4 Tips to Address the Topic
Reading | Video: A Totto-ly Delightful Read!
4 Fun & Interactive Classroom Display Tools!
Teachers Who Love English, We Want You!
5 Commonly Confused Pairs (or is it Pears?)
Steps to Score Well in Situational Writing for PSLE English
I Love Reading | 3 Tips for Reluctant Readers
The First Write Recipe Workshop at Greenridge Primary School!
Understanding IF Conditionals!
5 Graphic Novels To Check Out This Holiday
Paper 2: Don’t Lose the Marks Everyone is Getting!
PSLE English Specialist Teacher Wanted!
How to Execute Direct and Indirect Speech Transformation Confidently! | PowerPoint Slides
Comprehension | What Do I Need to Highlight?
Post Exam | 3 Important Things to Do After Receiving Your Exam Script
Authentic Learning | A New Way to Read the News
Learning Idioms: Have The Upper Hand With These 3 Tips
Tricky Prepositions to Clarify Before Your Exam
More importantly, your knowledge of prepositions can be tested in numerous sections in Paper 2 - Grammar MCQ, Vocabulary MCQ, Grammar Cloze, Comprehension Cloze and Editing. That’s more than half of the components in Paper 2!
App-y Tuesday: Prep Your Prepositions with These Apps!
As a follow up to my previous post on prepositions, I thought I would share with you three apps which you can download if you’re looking for an effective and fun way to learn prepositions.
Bingo Revision 4 Ways!
In this post, I am going to show you how the modest game of Bingo can be used as a fun revision tool.
Insert Exciting Dialogue Tags to Your Primary School Composition!
To start off with, let me share with you the power of using dialogue. Dialogue is an essential part of the story.
How to Pronounce the /th/ Sound?
In this post, I would like to help you to start mastering the /th/ sound with 2 simple steps.
Perfecting the Paragraph: Know When To Start A New Paragraph
We all know that to write a good story, we need to have a clear structure. But how do we structure our stories? If your answer is, “by having paragraphs”, then you are very nearly correct.
7 Essay Types at the O Level
Five Essentials to Score for Formal Situational Writing
Let’s Go On A Learning Journey | Two Awesome Places To Visit During the December Holidays!
Activities for the Holidays!
Between Two Commas: How to Deal with Extra Information
Continuous Writing: 3 Specific Things to Check For!
Fans of Fiction: 3 Websites to Check Out This Holiday
NYT Copy-Edit This: Free Editing Resource
3 Writing Skills to Start Nurturing from Primary 2
Tackling 3 Important Question Types in Comprehension: True/False, Referencing and Sequencing
Visual Text Comprehension | 4 Types of Non-Linguistic Features You Need to Know
4 Examination Components That Test You on Irregular Verbs
Grammar | “I” vs “Me” (Subjective VS Objective Pronoun)
Vocabulary | 5 Common Homophone Mistakes
Writing a Composition | 3 Ways to Write A Good Line of Dialogue
3 Ways to Build A Confident Child With Your Choice of Words!
Look Back in a Flash! 3 Ways to Craft Effective Flashbacks
Building Grammar Foundations: Start Young, Start Now

Like what you are reading?

Subscribe now to receive news and tips hot off the press!

Primary School English Tuition| Lil' but Mighty English