The word "said" is the gold standard when attributing quotes in straight-laced journalism, preferred over "exclaimed" or "stammered" or any other alternative; the reporter remains objective and lets the words speak for themselves. But sometimes "said" just doesn't cut it. Below are two paragraphs that caught my eye in yesterday's Times story about parents receiving a letter from a preschool warning that their practice of sending their kids to school in chauffeured SUVs that double and triple park endangers their progeny. I've highlighted two instances of "said" and suggested appropriate alternatives.
A public-relations executive, Dan Klores, who owns one of the S.U.V.’s, said he was unaware of Ms. Schulman’s letter. “I don’t have much to do with the place,” he said. “My wife takes my kid by stroller.”
Replacement: "admitted, before blatantly lying."
Reporter: "Hi, I'm a Times reporter. I just saw your child get out of your SUV in front of school." Mr. Klores: "Whatever, you must be on drugs. Plus, I don't give a shit about my kid's education."
A parent whom other parents identified as a chauffeur-using mother, Alison Schneider, whose husband, Jack Schneider, is a hedge fund manager, said, "I got the letter, but I don’t really have any feelings about it one way or the other. It’s kind of boring. It’s about cars and parking."
Replacement: "bobbled." Extra points: "bobbled, gum-snappily."
I'm less offended by the moral obliviousness than by the transgression in logic. Anything car related = dull. "Oh, it describes how people might be RUN OVER by cars? Um, BO-RING." Read it again, ma'am. This time, focus. "Wait, my defenseless three-year-old might be run over? Plus, the blood would be on my hands? My god, that's--ZZZZZZZZZZ....." And scene.