I have just recently been arguing on line with some writers who think that the only possible speech tag is ‘said.’
I am at that age where I am easily irritated and I am allergic to writing rules of this sort. I am a natural heretic when it comes to style rules and immediately feel obliged to break any ‘rule’s soon as it is suggested to me.
I suppose that most of the time I use ‘said’ but I reserve the right to use ‘muttered’, ‘grumbled’,’ argued’, and anything else that suits my story if I choose. So there. Anyway, having made my point repeatedly, forcibly and not particularly well, I came up with this piece of flash fiction which probably says it better.
‘My husband was a novelist and a good one. He wrote the spare, minimalist prose that won prizes. The idea of using an obvious speech tag horrified him. ‘I love you,’ he said. ‘let’s get married,’ he said, and years later after some small success,’ I am finished,’ he said.
‘Mark!’I howled when I found his corpse. I sobbed his eulogy, shrieked his last words at the graveside – overwrought and overwritten like the cheapest of airport novels. In all the things he said in all our long years together, he never ‘spoke’ to me at all.’