10

Suppose that,during a conversation in a book, one character says something sarcastically. As the author, I want the readers to know that the character was being sarcastic, but I do not want to say the phrase "said sarcastically."

An example is below:

"I'm glad to know that's what you think of my politics," Andrew said sarcastically.

Is there a single word that I can use to replace the phrase "said sarcastically"?

1
  • 7
    Frame challenge: you don't need "he said" at all. It's obvious from the context and it breaks any rhythm of heated dialog you are trying to achieve.
    – wetcircuit
    Jan 14, 2023 at 12:38

6 Answers 6

5

Sneered or smirked actually describes a facial expression, but conveys the sarcasm too. Some other possibilities: quipped, mocked, scoffed, or japed.

But what you probably want to do is give a description that shows what the character is really saying. You want to paint a vivid picture anyway!

23

Something I've found is that when you're trying to replace a phrase of the form "said Xly", there often isn't a single verb that does the job. I've come to see this as a potential warning sign that there is too much information being packed into the adverb, or that it isn't a good descriptor for verbal speech, and I need to revisit the whole phrase to see how I can more naturally get that concept across.

Often, this means rewriting it to be more descriptive. I am a huge fan of dialog tags that aren't explicitly verbal for this purpose.

In your specific example, I'd probably consider going for:

"I'm glad to know that's what you think of my politics." Andrew rolled his eyes.

or some other bit of gesture or body language that conveys the sarcastic nature of the response. This has the advantage that you're bringing in more physicality, especially if you expand on the snippet with physical action.

If Andrew is the POV character, there's also options like:

"I'm glad to know that's what you think of my politics." He didn't even know why he bothered trying sometimes.

Also, especially for things like sarcasm, often the dialogue in and of itself can be made clear enough that the tag is redundant:

"Wow. I'm glad to know that's what you think of my politics."

"Oh come on, you know I didn't mean it that way!"

TL;DR version: There isn't one, so try things beyond simple one-for-one replacement.

2
  • 1
    Depending on what's coming next, the eye-rolling can be better before the quotation.
    – J.G.
    Jan 15, 2023 at 16:00
  • 2
    Agreed - Amadeus also made the excellent point in his answer that descriptors which modify the tone a reader should read the dialogue in should come before it, not after, to prevent backtracking. In this case I suspect the reader is automatically going to read it in a sarcastic tone, but having the eye-rolling in advance would serve to make that obvious. I might edit to change that and point at the other answer for why.
    – Tau
    Jan 15, 2023 at 18:27
18

"I'm glad to know that's what you think of my politics," Andrew scoffed.

To scoff is to speak derisively or contemptuously. It is less strong than "mocked" or "sneered".

2
  • Yes .. I thought of that too. Answered and then saw yours. Deleted mine. Have a +1.
    – Pryftan
    Jan 13, 2023 at 21:04
  • I was really surprised nobody else had said it.
    – MJD
    Jan 14, 2023 at 15:00
13

In some cases "he said sarcastically" can be replaced by "he snarked".

I just checked and snark is used as both a noun and a verb.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/snark

Thus in some cases "snarked" can be used instead of "said sarcastically".

1
  • 3
    I'm not sure if the op uses American English or not but that would be the valid case of snark. I wouldn't use it and probably most others who use British English also wouldn't (though that has changed more over the years). It should be remembered that snark is also an (imaginary) animal. But your statement is correct anyway. In British English I guess one could use sarkily (from sarky) though I don't know that I've ever seen that in use.
    – Pryftan
    Jan 13, 2023 at 20:54
13

Avoid the adverb ("sarcastically") even if it costs you more words. Even if it costs you a paragraph.

A huge mistake of beginning writers is that they think they need to compress their writing, and adverbs help them do that. What they fail to understand is that readers of fiction do not mind reading. You don't have to get your point across quickly or in the minimum number of words!

The job of the fiction writer is to guide the imagination of the reader, in the visual, auditory, sensory and emotional realms, so the reader sees, hears and feels what the writer is imagining for the characters.

You do need to pick out the highlights that matter, but describe those. If Andrew's tone of voice is "sarcastic",

David was dismissive. "That's just stupid."

Andrew mustered all the sarcasm he could. "I'm glad to know what you think of my politics, David! That's very insightful input."

Don't worry about word counts. Avoid the adverbs if you can. Guide the reader's imagination, that is the point.

You should have a movie going on your head, but you don't have the film maker's camera for the imagery, or music to clue us into the emotions, or the voices to convey the tones of voice. You must use words to convey all of the critical details to the reader.

The readers are not in a hurry to finish your story; but they will put it down if you fail to guide their imagination.

This is why we warn against "talking heads", and adverbs: They fail to prompt the imagination.

I'd also suggest that when tone of voice is important, it precede the speech (so it will be read in the correct tone), not follow it.

5
  • 3
    Well, as long as your words count toward the story. Verbosity about unimportant things is indeed objected to by readers. Whether you should write "said sarcastically" vs. a paragraph depends on its importance and effect.
    – Mary
    Jan 14, 2023 at 2:33
  • 1
    "A huge mistake of beginning writers is that they think they need to compress their writing; and adverbs help them do that." That's not a correct use of a semicolon. Jan 14, 2023 at 6:45
  • @Mary - as someone who gave pretty similar advice, I would personally distinguish between "do you use an extra sentence or two" and "do you not use a tag at all". 'Said sarcastically' conveys extra information but in a way that's dense and not particularly vivid, which is most of the time the wrong choice. Either you need the information and should present it properly, or you don't need it and can cut the whole thing.
    – Tau
    Jan 14, 2023 at 8:49
  • @Acccumulation Thanks.
    – Amadeus
    Jan 14, 2023 at 11:35
  • 2
    @Mary The job is to aid the reader's imagination, but I am not going into every detail of that. We are not aiding the imagination if we are boring them with trivialities, we need to stick to things that matter for building the scene. And indeed, we should build the scene and atmosphere with as few details as possible, but not fewer than possible (to paraphrase Einstein). And I'll disagree on the use of the adverb here; IMO if the tone is unimportant, we don't need anything, if it is important, it should be conveyed in a more sensory manner than with an adverb.
    – Amadeus
    Jan 14, 2023 at 11:42
3

Unfortunately, there is no word that means "to declare, state, or say with sarcasm."

However, there are words that that can be used to communicate the meaning behind "said sarcastically." Some of these words are "mocked," "sneered," "taunted," and "snarled." Using these words, the sentence becomes

"I'm glad to know that's what you think of my politics," Andrew mocked.

"I'm glad to know that's what you think of my politics," Andrew sneered.

If these words are too harsh for the context of the conversation, you can use another phrase to communicate sarcasm:

"I'm glad to know that's what you think of my politics," Andrew sighed.

"I'm glad to know that's what you think of my politics," Andrew lamented.

In the end, you will need to decide which of the words best fit the broader conversation. But these examples should save you from having to use the awkward phrase "said sarcastically."

1
  • 2
    I would suggest "He jibed" as an alternative for a sarcastic remark among friends.
    – tvanc
    Jan 13, 2023 at 19:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.