Why you should just write "Said."

I'm the copy editor on my school's newspaper, which means I fix all the horrible stylistic problems in the stories we publish by Journalism 1 students.  Occasionally, I get frustrated.  Below is a letter I wrote to one of the Journalism 1 professors, to pass along to their students.  Changes from the exact original text have been noted in square brackets.

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DEAR JOURNALISM STUDENTS:

The word 'stated' doesn't belong in your stories. People don't 'state' things when they talk to journalists. They say them. Your sources didn't 'state.' They said.

In writing, the word 'said' is invisible. People don't read it when they read stories, they just see that set of letters and their brain understands that the quote they just finished belongs to the name next to that word.

Other words, like 'whispered,' 'muttered,' 'shouted,' 'exclaimed,' or 'stated,' are not invisible. They're like little rocks on the path of reader comprehension, and each one is a chance to trip your reader out of the story.

I think that a lot of you do it because you think it sounds more formal or proper than 'said.' There are two reasons that's bad:

First, it doesn't. It makes you sound like a cop, and cop speak is basically designed to be confusing and misleading, because cops don't want civilians to be clear on what's going on, because uncertain people are less likely to attack than confident people. That's fine for cops, but it's exactly the opposite of what you, a journalist, are supposed to do.

That leads neatly into the second point: Stop trying to be formal. Your job as a journalist isn't to be formal. Your job as a journalist is to be clear. Formal writing is a system designed to demonstrate proof of status, and it therefore by design excludes people who haven't had the privileges necessary to cultivate that skill. As a journalist, it is 100 percent absolutely NOT EVER your job to write in a way that helps hide the truth from poor people.

If you're interested in a more detailed discussion of classism and writing styles, you can reach me at [REDACTED] [You can just comment here]. But even if you don't care, or think I'm wrong, about everything above, for frak's sake STOP WRITING 'STATED' WHEN YOU MEAN 'SAID.' If nothing else gets through to you, just remember that the word 'stated' is never going to make it into the paper, and every time I have to FIX IT because you USED IT even after I TOLD YOU NOT TO is incredibly annoying.

Sincerely,

[REDACTED]