A Said Bookism is a variety of Purple Prose in which the writer goes out of their way to avoid the word "said". It was quite the fashion at one point; there were even 'said books' (hence the name, "said book-ism") you could buy with lists of verbs that can be used instead of "said", like "exclaimed", "emoted", "whispered", "sighed", "rumbled", "hissed", "pontificated", "enquired", etc.note (or everybody's Freudian favorite, "ejaculated", meaning "exclaimed")Said Bookism itself is a Discredited Trope these days — it's considered lazy writing in the eyes of readers and critics who want dialogue to speak for itself without the use of fancy tags to carry its meaning and intention for it; in many cases, the dialogue tags effectively repeat what the dialogue is already telling us. On the other hand, the severity of a Said Bookism isn't so much about the exact verbs chosen as it is about how often it's used, and whether they blend (or clash) with the surrounding context — fewer people will complain about the choice of common speaking verbs like "asked" or "replied" than they will about more unusual choices of verb (see previous paragraph), especially verbs that technically aren't a form of speech: E.g. People don't "sigh" or "laugh" out a response, because a sigh or laugh itself isn't an act of speaking (though people may sigh and say something, if you're picturing a speaker exhaling a short phrase in exasparation, or they may say something 'with a laugh').
Experienced writers often strike a middle ground between both the extensive repetition of "said" and Said Bookisms by describing the speaker's actions, posture, or body language; through the word choice in what's being said; or both — Sub Text can be powerful this way.
A subtrope of Purple Prose; supertrope to a Tom Swiftie; similar to Delusions of Eloquence and Author Vocabulary Calendar; often accompanies (or is accompanied by) Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.
In one Tomorrow Stories special, Splash Brannigan decides to act like a Film Noir-slash-dime novel hero, and narrates everything that happens to him. So this is how conversations go with him:
Splash: "Take it easy, toots!", I screamed. "I'm simply considering a career as a 1930's film noir detective!"
Daisy: But it's 2005! You'll never find suitable premises!
Splash: ...she moaned, seductively.
At one point Daisy specifically tells him not to say "she said". Throughout the story he basically uses every other word that could possibly mean "spoke", and a couple that couldn't, paired with increasingly ridiculous adverbs.
Dave Barry's Twilight parody Fangs of Endearment does it on every single dialogue tag.
Stephen King voiced his disgust for this in On Writing: "Don't do these things. Please oh please. The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said." He also provides the best example of doing it wrong: "'You fucking tease!', Bill jerked out."
Defended by Lawrence Block in Telling Lies For Fun and Profit, in which he says that replacements for "said" can enliven a story, so long as they're not used with a heavy hand:
I do feel that any number of alternate verbs have their uses from time to time. They can be good accent points in dialogue, and the less frequently you employ them the more effective they will be.
Warrior Cats falls into this sometimes, though this mostly is becuase the authors replace every instance of the word "said" with "meowed", which can get a little weird sometimes and the authors want to avoid that. Apart from that, there are still a lot of said bookisms, like "ventured."
The fantasy author Robert Lynn Asprin is another who sometimes had problems with this. Characters in the Myth Adventures will often "retort" to something "argued" to them.
Elmore Leonard includes in his Rules of Writing "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue." Another rule expands on that slightly: "Never use an adverb to modify the verb 'said.'"
Atlanta Nights uses this quite a bit, as one of many deliberately bad writing techniques.
"The word said is to prose what the arrow of a word balloon is to comics", Neil Gaiman blogged.
The Great Gatsby is not only full of these, it's full of redundant ones, like "snorted contemptuously."
Fifty Shades of Grey is very fond of 'murmur', even using it four times on one page. People are also fond of whispering things. Also, dialogue often gets tagged with actions, in some cases not by the actual speaker. This can make it quite hard to tell who's talking at any given time.
Dave Barry: Thatís right: This is the kind of a book where, instead of saying things, characters muse them, and they are somehow able to muse them matter-of-factly.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, there is a character called Hodor, who has a Verbal Tic Name: the only word he can speak is "Hodor". The prose is fond of sentences like: "Hodor, Hodor agreed." or "Hodor, Hodor protested.", to convey the emotion of the character's speech. Also reinsubverted or something on at least one occasion in which the word "hodor" is used as a Said Bookism in-universe.
"Catelyn admitted", "Tyrion pointed out", "Ned replied"... the series tend to have this pop up quite frequently, though aversions happen a lot as well.
Darren Shan, most famous for The Saga of Darren Shan, likes to use these regardless of whether they're needed or not. He once used the word "tsked." No, really.
Classic science fiction writer Stanley Weinbaum's most famous short story is "A Martian Odyssey," which he followed with a sequel, "The Valley of Dreams." They involve a team of astronauts who have traveled to Mars, including a German named Putz as a minor character. Both stories give him a chance to "ejaculate" a line of dialogue.
Robert B. Parker had an apparent version to using any other word than "said" to tag dialogue, at least in the Spenser series. Listening to the audiobook really drives the point home.
Just at that moment, he felt a tiny little hand rest upon his tail. And who should that little hand belong to, but the badly burnt Albanian boy from the day before. "What are you doing here? I thought I killed you yesterday," grumbled Albi, quite racistly. "No Albi, you didn't kill me with your dragon flames — I crawled to safety. But you did leave me very badly disfigured," laughed the boy.
Zigzagged in Alice and Bob, with attempts at avoiding "said" and then just settling on that word.
The Onion ran a brief article where the author of a new book persistently used "shrugged" as every said bookism. When asked about this, said author expressed her indifference with a quick raising of her shoulders.
Many English classes in American schools specifically require students to write this way as well as proscribing all use of "be" verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been). It can almost seem as if they are trying to sabotage future writers.
Completely averted in Russian - if you don't use Said Bookism, you will be considered an okay writer at best.