Well said

Another inquiry from an editor comes over the transom: Is it preferable to use said or says for attribution? Apparently some of the editor's writers have strong preferences. 

For writers of straightforward news articles and narrative, said remains standard.*

For writers of features, it's different, because they imagine that says conveys a sense of immediacy. The presumed reaction of the reader is "Oh, they're using present tense! It's like I'm right there in the same room with them!"

Like many of the tricks of writing features, it's a little stale, entirely inevitable, and largely innocuous.

Both said and says are conventional for attribution, and the writer should let the context of the article determine which. 

It would be swell if the writer, having chosen one tense, would hold to it consistently, but I've been in the paragraph game too long to expect miracles.


*The exception is to use present tense for statements that remain true over time: "She said she believed in demonic possession" suggests that she no longer holds the belief. "She said she believes in demonic possession" suggests that she still does. Be clear what you mean.


Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad