When we’re writing, especially a novel, we seem to use ‘said’ an awful lot and, if we don’t, we try very hard to come up with alternatives, such as argued, yelled, whispered, spoke, declared and so on. The problem then is that using those kind of words can draw attention away from the dialogue they relate to. I completed a 2 year Diploma in Writing and Editing and we were taught that it’s better to use ‘said’ most of the time because it’s actually very unobtrusive. It becomes almost invisible to the reader, even though it seems overused to the writer, while substitutes can be used, of course, but too many actually detract from the story by being too ‘showy’.
A dialogue between two people doesn’t require ‘he said, she said’, every time each one speaks. We know if Joe said something the reply will come from Fred, because they’re the only two there. If the dialogue becomes too long it might become confusing but you can always include some action, such as Fred glared at Joe.”What the hell are you talking about?” Too much dialogue without action is usually a mistake in any case, as is too much action without dialogue. The same technique can also be used for larger groups of course, for example, Diane entered the room, “What are you two up to now?”
I’m not saying you should never use words like ‘whispered’ and so on, and you can easily overdo the action technique. Just don’t neglect that useful little word, ‘said’.
My ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’ on grammar, punctuation, etc. is free permanently on Smashwords and will help anyone who’s not sure about the correct use of apostrophes and a few peculiarities in the English language. There are other books as well as websites with similar information; mine is easy to follow and attempts to explain things in a way that’s easy to remember as well. My other books are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK