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I say, I said - says versus said in articles

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

When you read a news story on AP, The New York Times, or The Guardian, you may notice that when sources are quoted, writers use 'said.'

Flip over to a feature article on Rolling Stone, and you might see a writer use 'says.'

And you might wonder which is more appropriate.

Technically, said would be more accurate, because any article you read is not happening as you read it.

The interviewee was interviewed, so past tense makes sense.

So why do some writers use says?

Because the present tense has more energy and immediacy.

It gives the sense that something is unfolding as you read it.

But which one should you use if you are writing an article for your blog or professional newsletter?

Well, that's up to you.

If you want to follow a reporting-style, go with said.

If you are writing something that would be published in a magazine, opt for says.

Or just go with what feels right to you.

But don't mix them up in one article.

Use the one you prefer consistently.

And I prefer putting says/said after the subject in writing unless I am introducing an independent clause with additional information, in which case I put says/said before the subject.

I mean, you don't say 'ran Joe' or 'swam Sue,' do you?


So, what say you? Are you someone who prefers one over the other? Let me know.


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