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Alternatives to "said" for essay writing and other non-fiction

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Written by Vera C. Last updated on .

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When writing an essay or other non-fiction piece, it can be hard to come up with another word for "said". If you're quoting something that someone said or wrote, you'll want to use alternatives to "said" throughout your writing to make it flow better.

Why replacements for "said" can be more challenging for non-fiction writing

Finding other ways of saying "said" can be less of an issue for fiction writers, since they are able to get creative and use words which indicate emotion or intonation. For example: "I can't believe you didn't tell me", he huffed." For your non-fiction piece in most cases you won't be able to use such emotional replacements for "said" if you're quoting someone. Of course, there are exceptions to this, for example in a personal essay written from your point of view - but in that case only if you're relating something you heard yourself and you're using an accurate description of the emotion or tone.

Alternatives to said for non-fiction writing

Here is a list of alternatives for "said". If you're comfortable writing in English this list should be sufficient for you. On the other hand, if you'd like a little extra guidance then read on further to the next section where I explain which words are the best choice for which situations. This is because some of these words have subtle differences in their connotations.

Synonyms of said:

  • stated
  • related
  • reported
  • indicated
  • suggested
  • declared
  • claimed
  • revealed
  • pointed out
  • disclosed
  • evinced (not evidenced, evinced)
  • specified
  • stipulated
  • expressed
  • denoted
  • attested
  • divulged
  • imparted

Things to know when choosing another word for "said"

There are a lot of options in the list above, so here's how to know which is the most appropriate one to use in the context of your non-fiction piece.

The best all-purpose replacements for said

The words that are best suited for general purpose replacements for "said" are: stated, pointed out, expressed, declared, imparted, and reported.

By far the safest of these is "stated", but the others are suitable also. If you're not completely confident with the English language, you're unlikely to go wrong with any of these.

When clarifying something or mentioning the finer points

If you're seeking another word for said in the context of a clarification or the finer points of an issue, then "stipulated" or "specified" would be the best choice. For example:

"Students, senior citizens and the disabled are eligible for cheaper bus fares provided they have appropriate ID", the city bus service spokesperson stipulated (include your citation)

When unveiling a finding to your readers that is not widely known

If you've found something in your investigations that is not widely known, use any of these words: divulged, revealed, disclosed. For example:

City records revealed that the building had been condemned in 2009 (include your citation).

Think of this as a dramatic unveiling. Do not use these words for something which is general knowledge!

When someone is bearing witness to something

Use "attested" if you're quoting someone who is making a statement witnessing something. Attested is only really appropriate in this context since it has the connotation of witnessing or bearing witness to something. For example:

"Someone told the university newspaper that she was hurt in the protest, but in reality she was in our dorm common room the whole time with a group of people including myself" her roommate Rachel attested.

Weaker forms of "said"

If you're using a statement that is open to interpretation, nuanced, or tenuous, use any of these: claimed, indicated, suggested. For example:

"I would always stand up for someone who is being attacked in a parking lot" claimed Brandon, for whom video shows was present as a bystander when the attack happened but made no move to help.

or

Recent studies have suggested that more caffeine is not always harmful to health (include your citation).

The bottom line for what to use instead of "said"

As seen in the list in this page, there are many different ways of saying said. All of these are well suited to essay writing or other non-fiction. However, some of these synonyms have slightly different connotations which have been outlined in the section above, along with how to know which to pick. Select the one which is the most appropriate in the context of your sentence and then move on. You don't have to spend ages agonizing over another word for "said" in an essay.

To further improve the flow of your essay or other non-fiction piece, you might also like to look at our list of alternatives to "however" and alternatives to "for example".


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