THERE WAS A TIME, more years ago than I care to count, when I was a young editor, sitting on the copy desk of The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY.
During that time, I would occasionally edit a piece written by Gus. Gus was a fine reporter. His stuff was always correct. And if you needed a reporter you could count on to get an important story, Gus was t-h-e guy.
But Gus had a problem. He just couldn’t seem to use the word “said.”
Among the words Gus used for attribution: “Commented.” “Opined.” “Responded.” “Insisted.” “Retorted.”
“Opined”? Really? “Retorted”? You’re kidding, right?
When I edited Gus’ stuff, first thing I’d look for is all the “commented, opined, responded, retorted” words.
I did that because, even then, I knew those words got in the way. They’re “stopper” words. They make a reader stop to wonder if they really work in the context of the sentence. As in: “It’s going to be a great piece of legislation,” Murphy opined. Or: “I like the look of this bill,” he insisted.
My solution? “Said.” It’s short, it works in most contexts and it’s a word that never gets in the way.