It's common to use the verb "say" over and over again when writing dialogue. Not only is he said she said repetitive, but it's also 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 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.
- Alison blurted out the answer.
- Jack gasped in reaction to the scene.
- I snapped a quick response to his question.
Providing Advice or an Opinion
- Pete cautioned the children to be careful.
- The teacher observed that the exercise was difficult.
- The driver warned his passengers about the noise.
- 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.
The following four vocal verbs are often used to describe someone complaining:
- Jack mumbled his responses to the questions.
- He muttered so badly that they couldn't understand him.
- I moaned that I was hurt.
Speaking with Authority or Command
- 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 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
Alice admiringly noticed his clothes.
angrily: indicates anger
She angrily denounced his crimes.
casually: without much importance
She casually conceded her mistake.
cautiously: in a careful manner
She cautiously mentioned the extra homework.
cheerfully: indicates joy, happiness
Frank cheerfully agreed to do the job.
decisively: indicates a belief in the statement made
Ken decisively replied to the question.
defiantly: indicates a challenge to something
Peter defiantly taunted his classmates.
formally: proper, through official channels
Josh formally complained to the personnel department.
harshly: indicates critical judgment
The teacher harshly scolded the children.
meekly: indicates quietness, shyness
Jennifer meekly mumbled her apology.
offensively: indicates rudeness
Alan offensively argued his point about schooling.
sternly: indicates authority
The teacher sternly stated that all reports were due on Friday.
thankfully: indicates gratitude
Jane thankfully accepted the job offer.
wisely: indicates experience or intelligence
Angela wisely commented on the situation.