Using the most specific vocabulary word usually is good advice in writing, but there is one exception: the word “said.”
Told, stated, remarked, revealed, whispered, shouted, spoke—the list of substitutes is practically endless. But most of the time, “said” is the best option.
When you write, “He said,” you are informing that a person spoke, but you are not informing how he spoke, so the focus goes on the words he said aloud. In the sentence, “Jack said, ‘I am soaking wet from that rain,’” the focus is on what Jack said aloud, as it should be. In the sentence, “Jack hollered, ‘I am soaking wet from that rain,’” the focus is split. Part of the focus is on what words Jack said aloud, and part is on his manner of speech—a holler.
We are so used to reading the word “said” that it virtually disappears, much like the article, “a.” That is what we want. We need to let our readers know who is speaking, but usually the manner of speech is not important. By using any word other than “said,” attention is drawn away from what is said to how it is said, which we don’t want.
A good rule of thumb is to use “said” if you want your reader to focus on the words which were said aloud. However, if you want your reader to focus on the manner of speaking, then use another word. But do so sparingly. Click on the listing (graphic) below for a larger version.