I went to school in America for a couple of years, from age 8 (second grade) to age 10 (fourth grade). The school I attended for fourth grade was an elementary school in Texas, and from what I remember, it wasn’t particularly academically high-flying.
Our history lessons began in 1620 with the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, and ended at the Texan war of independence in 1836. A music lesson was interrupted by a radio broadcast of the OJ Simpson verdict.
One aspect of this time of my education which has particularly resonated over the past year or so is English. I remember writing a lot of stories at school, which is excellent, and I enjoyed it even then.
But I also remember a handout sheet of paper, with a symbol at the top: the word ‘said’, with a giant red cross through it. Underneath, a list of words which one could use instead of ‘said’:
shouted, yelled, whispered, muttered, called, mumbled, shrieked, expostulated…. you get the picture.
Now that I have started reading blogs and books about writing, I’ve learnt that this is wrong. Here is an example from one of my favourite writing websites, the Blood Red Pencil:
If you do use taglines, it’s better to stick with the word “said”, rather than trying to come up with substitutes such as cry, interject, interrupt, mused, state, counter, conclude, mumble, intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode. These are “telling” words. Let the words in the dialogue show the emotion. And you can NEVER smile words, or squint them, or laugh them.
So, it just goes to show, not all of what you are taught at school is correct.