This, in a way, is a table of contents in compensation for the mixed links on the ‘word lists’ tag, although not all of their word lists are on this masterpost - these are just the ones that I’m expecting to use consistently. If you see this, feel free to add your own helpful links. None of these…
Do you know all these expressions about hands? Most of them are cliches, but using just about any cliche is forgivable if you do so in a fresh way, or to add a note of humor.
Originally the word was “pease,” and it was singular.The sound on the end was reanalyzed as a plural ‘s’ marker.
The same thing happened to “cherise” or “cheris,” which came from Old French “cherise” and was reanalyzed as a plural. So the singular “cherry” was born.
Originally “napron” often enough as “an apron” that by the 1600s the “n” was dropped.
Umpire lost its ‘n’ from the same sort of confusion. Orinally nompere, the n-less form won out.
A newt was originally an “ewt” - with “an” thus it became the “newt.”
The ‘n’ also traveled over from the “an” to stick to “nickname,” which was originally “ekename,” meaning “added name.”
Alligator came to English from the Spanish explorers who first encountered “el lagarto” (lizard) in the New World.
Under your fingertips
You have to use the five senses when you write. Readers want to experience what your characters see, smell, hear, taste and touch. I find that touch is the sense that is most ignored by writers. I think it is often the most difficult to describe. Don’t leave it out. The sense of touch is so important because touch confirms that our eyes aren’t deceiving us. Readers identify with characters who engage with their worlds.
Description composed of sensory detail penetrates layers of consciousness, engaging your reader emotionally as well as intellectually… ~Rebecca McClanahan
Writing Tip: Beginner writers tend to confuse touch with feel. For example: I see the river, I hear the sirens, I feel confused. Should be: I see the river, I hear the sirens, I touch the jagged scar. Try and say touch whenever you can and you should avoid this problem.
Texture describes the way something feels when touched or eaten. It also describes the way something looks or feels because of the way in which it is made. For the purposes of this article, I want to concentrate on the first definition. I have put together a list of words that will help you describe what a character feels when he touches something with his fingertips or his skin.
Avoid problems created by these words or phrases:
We have added definitions of each word and an example sentence. Also, we have omitted hinted and insinuated, as we agree with fellow writers’ suggestions that they are not suitable additions to the list.
Instead of whispered, consider:
- murmured: A soft, indistinct sound made by a person or group of people speaking quietly or at a distance: "Don’t go," he murmured, grabbing her hand as she turned to leave.
- mumbled: Say something indistinctly and quietly, making it difficult for others to hear:"Thanks a lot," he mumbled sarcastically.
- muttered: Say something in a low or barely audible voice, esp. in dissatisfaction or irritation: She muttered to herself all the way down the hall, reciting all her usual complaints.
- breathed: Say something in a quiet voice or whisper: "I love you," she breathed, her eyes full of tears.
- sighed: Emit a long, deep, audible breath expressing sadness, relief, or tiredness; say something in a low or barely audible voice, esp. in sadness or irritation; to say exasperatedly, or all in one breath: "Right," he sighed. “Well, just don’t do anything too stupid.”
- hissed: To utter with a hiss, esp. in instances that include one or more sharp sibilant sounds, as of the letter s: "Just stop," she hissed, her grip on Lisa’s arm tightening.
- mouthed: To form (a word, sound, etc.) with the lips without actually making an utterance: "The baby’s asleep," she mouthed, leading her parents back into the living room.
- uttered: To give audible expression to; speak or pronounce: He uttered a string of barely audible insults.
- intoned: Say or recite with little rise and fall of the pitch of the voice: "I’m not going anywhere," she intoned. He could tell she was exhausted by the pitchless quality of her voice.
- susurrated: (susurration) The indistinct sound of people whispering: The room hummed with the soft susurrus of conversation.
- purred: To utter a low, continuous, murmuring sound expressive of contentment or pleasure, as a cat does: "I know you want me," she purred into his neck, trailing kisses across his collar bone.
- said in an undertone: To speak in a low or subdued tone: "Not now, Jessee," he said in an undertone.
- gasped: Say (something) while catching one’s breath, esp. as a result of strong emotion: She could hardly gasp out an apology.
- said low: (slang) Say something in a quiet voice or whisper: "Plants are more like us than you think," he said low, as if he spoke to the lilies themselves.
- said into [someone’s] ear: Say something in a quiet voice or whisper, esp. near the listener’s ear, in such a way that only they may hear: "Meet me in the parlor," he said into Jane’s ear, and her heart betrayed her with a flutter of excitement.
- said softly: Say something in a quiet voice or whisper: "I’m here now," Usula said softly, brushing a lock of hair from her cheek.
- said under [one’s] breath: (idiom) Say something in a muted voice or whisper: "Over my dead body," Jacob said under his breath.
- said in a hushed tone/in hushed tones: (idiom) Say something in a softened tone, or in a quiet voice or whisper: "Will he make it, Doctor?" Kendraasked in a hushed tone.
Thank you to everyone who reblogged this list to add their opinion. We have, with their permission, included some of these opinions so that you may benefit from their perspective.
memattbe adds: Whispered is the simplest and conveys what you mean by a whisper the best. Maybe murmured would be a good substitute if you just used whispered. Muttered, sighed, hissed, gasped, mouthed, purred, breathed, mumbled all mean things noticeably different than whisper. The said… ones aren’t bad, but one word is better than four.
ankh-the-odd adds:Also, don’t use alternate words for said.
It’s not boring, people’s eyes will just move right over the word said. If you use something else, you draw attention to it, and it messes up the flow of the text completely. You come to the end a bit of dialogue and then think “Woah okay what just happened.” It looks really unprofessional, tbh.
mumblingsage adds: I’ll just add that it’s always good to know a lot of not-quite-alternative words in case you ever think a character whispered, only to find out that they actually were murmuring it. The point is precision.
Or sometimes to avoid repeating words, but in that case you probably shouldn’t have a character performing the same action multiple times in a few paragraphs, or at least from continuing to remind the reader they’re doing it (if you state that a character is whispering, the reader will assume they continue whispering throughout the scene, until told otherwise).
And, um, if you thought your character was whispering and they’re actually susurrating…you might want to get that checked out.
There was another truly wonderful criticism of this list that is quite long, so we are including it in a Read More. Click below to see bobbyisrightthereyaidjit's critique.
Actually, if you can, you want to use ‘said’ because you don’t want people to notice your tag lines.
I get angsty about seeing the original “Word List: Alternatives to Whisper” post since I don’t think it was as helpful as it could have been, so I updated this post to include the definitions and advice from the amended version of the original. I hope you don’t mind. :)
To address your comment: I think that there are times when one may, in fact, want to draw attention to one’s tag lines, just as one may have occasion to draw attention to any aspect of one’s writing.
The point is that writing is complicated. There are no hard and fast rules. I find it’s best to avoid giving or taking advice that doesn’t at least try to fully explain its reasoning and application.
For example, in your opinion, why shouldn’t a writer want readers to notice their tag lines? Why don’t readers notice said? These questions certainly have subjective answers (I know I have opinions on them), but those answers weren’t included in your advice. For this reason, I would find this advice difficult to apply to my own writing, though I would definitely be interested in learning more about your perspective on this subject.
Go now and write in whatever way seems best to you! (Ha ha)