Reporting Verbs

'that's what she said'

When we quote and paraphrase sources, the verbs say, talk, tell and write are often overused.

“The article talks about” or “The author says that” are typical examples.

There are many alternatives that better nuance what our source is really doing. They also add more punch to our writing, which is a good thing when we’re writing or speaking with an argumentative academic voice.

Good writers add intention, emotion, tone, attitude, mood, and perspective to their “saying” and “telling.” Their words become actions in a way: they state, propose, claim, argue, contend, discuss, question and so on.

In academic registers these alternatives to say, talk, tell and write are common.

The number of verbs that writers use to report a statement can be overwhelming. Classifying them can help: Are the authors in favour of the ideas they discuss? Are they against? Or undecided and neutral? And how strongly do they feel this way?

This pdf from the University of Adelaide's Writing Centre lists the major reporting verbs and classifies them:

  • by function
  • by strength
  • by the grammatical contexts they’re used in

It also gives examples, references and more resources.

When we make these words our own, we can adjust our register more effectively and better understand the nuances of the texts we’re reading and listening to.