I am the same as Pinata
, I get annoyed at 'said' too often. Partly because I vaguely remember an English teacher or two saying you using 'said' all the time was bad practice an boring, partly because it seems awkward and redundant if used too often to me.
This is the first I've heard that using 'said' all the time was actually preferred practice, and excessive use of other tags to be frowned upon. However, I do appreciate that; now I'll feel much safer in using the occasional plain old 'Danny said' .
That's not to say I'm a total convert. It still feels like a waste of space to say, usually.
I tend to use a variety of other words like 'whispered', 'yelled', 'suggested'. I try to reword sometimes too from just 'he whispered', 'Anna yelled', to 'the suggestion in her voice made him pause', 'the question came out as a whisper', etc..
And then, with just a string of dialogue between two people, I just omit any tags after establishing to order.
Anna screamed at him, "Shut up!"
"Why can't you just leave me alone?!"
"Oh, play the victim card!"
And then often I also don't waste the space telling who 'said', 'quipped', 'announced', at all, and spend the time talking about something else of the character.
"I knew you'd come," How did Erik know she was there with his eyes closed?
She waited a beat before realizing he wasn't going to say anything else, "Well duh, it's a date, right? Did you think I'd flake out on you?"
So really, I just use a variety of possibilities for 'said', whichever seems most useful at the time, and I think it works out for me. Plain old 'he said' 'she said' is now in my retinue as well, I guess. Strangely, while I have a hundred and one other pet peeves in writing that I find hard to work around or awkward, this isn't one of them at all.