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I'm trying to avoid using an adverb in the following sentence:

When people asked him where the money was going, he [said frankly], "a good cause".

I'm hoping there's a synonym for "said" that elicits feelings of terseness and simplicity in the speaker's voice, but I can't think of one.

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    I can think of nothing shorter than he said frankly. Frankly means honestly. However, it doesn't mean being terse or simplistic. And I certainly can't think of a verb that means say in an honest and terse way. – Jason Bassford Dec 28 '18 at 16:40
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    Hasn't Stephen King cured you of using any verb other than said in attribution yet? – Robusto Dec 28 '18 at 17:31
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    Admitted? Vouchsafed? Divulged?. I'm not aware that frankly has any particular connotations of "terseness" or "simplicity". – FumbleFingers Dec 28 '18 at 17:41
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    The example implies, and you explicitly state in a comment to another answer, that "The character is lying to the people giving him money but in a convincing manner." But "frank" means "honest". So you don't seem to be asking for a word that means "frankly". – Acccumulation Dec 28 '18 at 20:04
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    Ironically, the verb frank is not germane to this conversation ;) – Andy Dec 28 '18 at 20:05
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I want to know more about the character in your example to provide a good option because you could elicit a similar feeling using a different type of word altogether. Part of me would like to see:

When people asked him where the money was going, he quipped, "a good cause".

even though that is more witty. I also like the following, which, depending on the full context, could give off a similar "terse but honest" vibe:

...he shrugged, " a good cause".

...he leveled, "a good cause".

...he maintained, "a good cause".

I could go on, and, while I typed this out, some others have posted good answers. I'm a fan of context and character to choose the best "said" replacement.

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  • The character is lying to the people giving him money but in a convincing manner. He's collecting "donations" from a great many people, so each interaction is very short. I like the use of action verbs though, that's a great idea. I think I'll go with shrugged – Zaya Dec 28 '18 at 17:17
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    These are all horrible, and don't convey any of the sense of frankly, frankly. – Robusto Dec 28 '18 at 17:28
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    @Zaya Awesome! I think words can have certain implications (not always what a strict, dictionary definition might indicate) given the scenario/context. Let's assume this particular character is known to be frank but vague. So we, the audience/observer, know that when he shrugs, he's being frank in his own sly way. – Gwendolyn Dec 28 '18 at 17:32
  • @Zaya: if the speaker really isn't being frank, but is just seeming to be so, then shrugged is a good choice. – Kiloran_speaking Dec 28 '18 at 18:47
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Though none are quite synonymous with "saying frankly," a few words that carry a similar connotation are declared, avowed, professed, and affirmed.

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I think the closest verb you will find is to avow.

He avowed the money was for a good cause.

I don't believe it is exactly synonymous with the phrasal "he stated frankly", as it seems also to suggest a sense of "promise" or "guarantee", rather than just straightness and sincerity. But the two are very close.

This particular sense of avow is number 5, of the OED listing of the verb.

  1. transitive. To own, acknowledge, admit, or confess (facts, statements, or opinions, that one might himself conceal or deny). Const. as in 4. 1330 R. Mannyng Chron. 320 If he wille avowe alle his wikked sawe. c1386 Chaucer Canon's Yeoman's Prol. & Tale 89 I wol nought avowe what I say, And therfor kep it secré I yow pray. c1440 Promptorium Parvulorum 19 A-vowyn, or stonde by the forsayde worde or dede, Advoco. a1464 J. Capgrave Abbreuiacion of Cron. (Cambr. Gg.4.12) (1983) 141 Sche accused a certeyn knyte, whech cam to þe kyng and avowid euery word. 1660 R. Allestree Gentlemans Calling ix. 159 This little Tract..must avow to come upon that uncivil, yet friendly errand. 1667 Dryden Annus Mirabilis 1666 cxxxvii. 35 As when Fiends did Miracles avow, He stands confess'd ev'n by the boastful Dutch. 1778 Johnson in Boswell Life Johnson (1816) III. 294 Many a man thinks, what he is ashamed to avow. 1855 W. H. Prescott Hist. Reign Philip II of Spain I. ii. viii. 235 The boldness with which he avowed his opinions.
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According to Merriam-Webster, one sense of level is “to deal frankly and openly.”

I found a use that seems to illustrate that:

He listened to our story with every sign of sympathy, and a touch of sorrow. Then he leveled with us: "I think you're absolutely in the right," he said, "but it's a political matter. I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole."

Odd Man Out: A Memoir of the Hollywood Ten, by Edward Dmytryk, Page 50.

And (again according Merriam-Webster), senses of confide include “to show confidence by imparting secrets” and “to tell confidentially.”

And a use that seems illustrative to me:

... [He] was very well approved of by his master, who found him daily more and more intelligent in all things relating to traffic, and so confided in him that he sent him with some ships...

Rascals in Paradise, by James A. Michener, ‎Page 76

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It's somewhat pejorative to tone and thought process, but the verb blurt (out) is an option:

When people asked him where the money was going, he blurted out "a good cause".

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  • This is incorrect. "Blurt out" has an entirely different meaning to "state frankly". Please consult a dictionary. – WS2 Jan 1 '19 at 7:20
  • I was keying off the "feelings of terseness and simplicity in the speaker's voice" in the original question. Merriam-Webster's definition for "blurt", which I consulted before writing my answer but did not see a need to specifically mention doing, says blurt is to utter "abruptly and impulsively", both of which would seem to me to confirm terseness and simplicity in that blurtings tend to be short, and if done immediately following a direct question suggests honesty due to lack of time spent thinking of a lie. I didn't consider whether the sentence knew the speaker's mind at that moment. – X Goodrich Jan 2 '19 at 20:43

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