I needed something to read and I picked up a book from the Oxfam shop. It was The Love Academy by Belinda Jones and in it she avoids using the word "said" whenever possible and sometimes in situations where I would have said that avoiding it was impossible. These are some of the delights that ensue:
- "You're going to Venice?" he clarifies.
- "I know," I whine.
- "Well, you should never have told her in the first place," he glowers.
- "I didn't do it entirely on purpose," I squeak, seeking mercy.
- "Oh, that's perfect," I cooed.
Those are all from the first chapter. Other alternatives to "said" include: notes, wails, confides, teases, smiles, quips, enquires, tuts, observes, gasps, assures and prompts.
A favourite alternative to "said" which was used several times was "understates", as in
"She is not easily forgotten," he understates.
I think the editor was on holiday. Remember, this is from a published book. I'm sure you can do better.