Said Versus Asked

I had to weight in here because this literally drives me nuts: said is used for a statement while asked is used when posing a question. Pease stop using said with a question mark as it is NOT proper no matter what the new trends are.

Question marks are punctuation used to indicated interrogative clauses or phrases. Essentially, these are questions. As we learned in elementary school during basic grammar and punctuation, this requires a dialogue tag such as: ASKED, inquired, wondered… (other synonyms).

Researching the trend of using said with a question mark, I came across some shocking information. The worst was that professors are teaching students to use said because they say asked in conjunction with a question mark is redundant. WHAT? The most redundant dialogue ever is said, so I call bullshit on that logic. Again, I go back to the basics for grammar and punctuation. Check this out from – every example uses ASKED.

I came across this article from Autocrit, which I have mixed feelings about. I disagree with their assertions that “Why Said and Asked are All You Need” because words have power. However, I agree with their statement, “Keep Emotion in the Words, not the Tags,” which is something that comes with practicing our skills as writers.
Examples to prove my point:
Original with just SAID dialogue tag (which is poor, or rather novice, writing): “You frustrate me,” Clare said, sounding exasperated.
Adjusted to show alternatives to SAID (gives more descriptive words than SAID): “You frustrate me,” Clare growled. (growled: [of a person] say something in a low grating voice, typically in a hostile or angry manner.)
Adjusted to show alternatives to keep emotion in the words not the dialogue tag (this is the best version – SHOW don’t TELL): Growling, Clare balled her hands into fists, pursed her lips, and squeezed her eyes shut. Her body shook with tension. “You frustrate me.”

The simplest why to remember:

SAID is used when posing a statement. The woman said it was nine o’clock in the morning.
“I just woke up,” the child said. “When’s breakfast?” This example uses said because the dialogue tag is attached to the first statement not the actual question. It completes the first sentence.

ASKED is used when posing a question. The man asked, “what time is it?”
“I just woke up.” The hungry child rubbed his eyes and asked, “when’s breakfast?” This example shows the dialogue tag attached to the second sentence, which is the question, and therefore, it should be asked.

Direct and Indirect Questions: Be Polite!
Another resource: Direct and Indirect Questions in English

“A question mark replaces a period at the end of a sentence when the sentence is a question. Sometimes, question marks are known as interrogation points.

The question mark symbol is one of the main three end marks for sentences; the other two are the period and the exclamation point.”


  • Sometimes, sticking to the rules of grammar can get in the way of an otherwise well-constructed sentence. Using the word ‘asked’ in relation a question is pointless – the question mark tells us they are asking a question. Also, some of the examples above are classic cases of telling not showing (eg sounding exasperated). Bad writing, basically.

    • I agree with Julie that using said when asking a question is wrong. However, I feel we overuse dialogue tags to begin with. A lot of tags can simply be replaced with an action beat to identity who is speaking.

    • That was my point – “she said, sounding exasperated” is bad writing. You want to use more descriptive words choices or, better yet, ACTIONS (as Sahara was saying). If you reread the example, I was pointing out NOT to use that “original” sentence, but to select stronger words (the example was growled) or better yet, let the actions SHOW instead of TELL (Growling, Clare balled her hands into fists, pursed her lips, and squeezed her eyes shut. Her body shook with tension). I was supporting my belief that you do need more than just SAID and ASKED and that you really should put the emotion in the actions (which was the point of that paragraph).

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