“I didn’t do it,” she protested.
“I didn’t say you did,” he countered.
“Why did you say like that, than?” she asked.
“How did I say it?” he questioned.
“Like you thought it was me,” she shouted.
“Well maybe it was!” he angrily retorted.
“I already said it wasn’t!” she screamed in a high piercing tone blurring most of the actual consonants.
Whatever happened to the word, ‘said’? Whatever happened to simplicity? I think at some point in school the definition of a good writer becomes, “someone who uses big words and as many of them as possible.” And that’s fine. Hopefully there was also a time in every student’s life when they were taught the value of being concise. ‘Short and sweet’ is a brilliant motto in almost any capacity.
That said, I still worry the first part of the misguided definition of a writer continues to hold sway in the imagination of most individuals. Big words: dangerous buggers, they are. And I love them. So don’t misunderstand; I adore big words. I practically convulse with joy over an opportunity to use circumambulate or prestidigitation in a sentence. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? When such delight comes from using such pretentious, awesome words, we start looking for occasions to do just that. And we find them everywhere. There is no dearth of opportunities to be word snobs. And the thesaurus is so incredibly convenient in the drop-down menu of whatever word-processing program being used.
What happened to simple? The modern English language happened. Too many choices, too many options assail us. And we pass those options right on to the reader. We should use more discretion. Yes, it’s good to be varied. Yes, it’s good to challenge readers. But it’s also good to have a piece that flows and progresses at a natural pace, unimpeded by giant or obscure words thrown in just to show off, or because we still think they are what make us good writers.
If someone says something, sometimes it’s simply okay to say so. He said. She said. Or in the case above, once that characters are established, let the dialogue stand alone.
“I didn’t do it,” she said.
“I didn’t say you did.”
“Why did you say like that, then?”
“How did I say it?”
“Like you thought it was me.”
“Well maybe it was!”
“I already said it wasn’t!”
Simple is nice.