who says?

At the risk of sounding pedantic, there are a few verbal tics that I think immediately betray a writer’s inexperience. And one of them is such an easy fix that I can’t help myself: When you quote sources, don’t use the attribution “states” or “stated.” It should always be “says” or “said.” (We can argue about more descriptive words, such as “declares” or “confides,” another day.)

When I’m reading a story, a quote followed by “states” always stops me short. It sounds so stiff, and I can’t help but imagine a robotic voice reading it. New writers tend to have an overly formal tone as it is — I know I did — and this particular tic exacerbates that. Look, what sounds more smooth and conversational?

“I can’t go to lunch — I’m on deadline,” Katie stated.

“I can’t go to lunch — I’m on deadline,” Katie said.

Katie is stating a fact in that sentence (a very sad fact, indeed), but “said” sounds so much more natural. So please, banish “states” from your stories — unless you are, in fact, quoting a talking robot …

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