Alternatives to Using “Said” When Quoting a Source
  • 2-minute read
  • 24th July 2014

Alternatives to Using “Said” When Quoting a Source

When discussing the arguments of other thinkers, as we often have to do when writing a paper, you might find yourself writing “so and so says…” quite often. While this is good enough most of the time, you may also want to vary your word choice.

Moreover, in academic writing, “says” or “said” might not fully communicate what you intend. It may therefore be better to use a more precise alternative.

Alternatives to “Said”

There are plenty of synonyms for “said” that can be used in academic writing. For instance, if we imagine quoting an author called Johnson, instead of “Johnson says that,” we could write:

  • States (“Johnson states that the results are consistent with past studies…”)
  • Asserts (“Johnson asserts that the technique is flawed…”)
  • Argues (“Johnson argues that the test should be revised…”)
  • Claims (“Johnson claims that the conclusion is valid…”)
  • Believes (“Johnson believes that modern science should be trusted…”)

However, it should be noted that most of these words are more specific than “said.” As such, you’ll need to check that the word you pick fits the situation.

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Saying that “Johnson argues such and such,” for instance, only makes sense if you are quoting an argument. As such, it wouldn’t make sense to say “Johnson argues that his favorite ice-cream is vanilla,” since this is an opinion, not an argument.

Likewise, some terms have connotations that you need to understand before you use them. The word “alleges,” for instance, can be a synonym for “says,” but it implies that the claim is unproven, controversial or doubtful. It therefore has quite a specific use.

Nor should you avoid using the word “says” in your work. It’s simply a case of being aware of how often you use particular terms and trying to find a suitable alternative if you are using any single term (including “said”) too much.

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