Newbie Post #11: Let Your Verbs Do the Heavy Work!

Newbie Post 11

As usual, I’m not going to take any expert credit on this post. I have learned through beta readers, friends on Absolute Write and reading blog posts until my eyes blurred! Strangely enough, I had difficulty digging up blog posts that specifically deal with this issue. I don’t know. Maybe it’s one of those things mentioned here and there, but I didn’t Pin any topic-specific posts on Pinterest. Anyway, I’ll try to talk a little about strong verbs, and point you towards a few helpful sites. Plus, I’ll throw in reference charts compiled from several sources online. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down the sources when I wrote down all the strong verbs in a notebook, so I won’t be able to site all the places I found these.

So what is a strong verb? I’ll try a few, not so well-written examples, but hopefully it will illustrate the point.

I ran to the treeline looking for cover

I bolted to the treeline looking for cover.

So that’s pretty rudimentary, but you see what I’m talking about. Yes, run is an action verb, but it’s boring, mundane. As writers, we can come up with something far better. There are many words that can replace simple verbs like run, walk, said, that can be far more descriptive.

“I hate you, Evan. And I never want to see you again,” she said.

“I hate you, Evan. And I never want to see you again,” she screamed.

The first is fine if your character is full of cold fury, but if she’s manic and enraged, screamed works much better. You don’t always have to use descriptive verbs (especially when we’re talking about said) but there are many times when simply changing out one verb for another can give a whole new meaning to the sentence.

That’s kind of it. It’s not exactly a difficult concept. Using verbs that give strength and description to your sentences will make your writing pop. Not to mention, strong verbs usually involve fewer words and get you closer to the action, kind of like those filter words we talked about last time.

Here are a few websites that probably (most definitely) explain this better than I, so please have a look:

Keyboard Smash Writers short post on strong verbs
Writers In The Storm post Use Adverbs “Consciously” To Make Your Writing Strong (Not exactly verbs, but still related)
Writer’s Digest post on Subverting Adverbs and Clichés by Chuck Sambuchino (More adverbs, but illustrates the point)
University of Houston Clearlake post on Strong Verbs

Here are two charts that help to illustrate how you can take a very common verb and use something more descriptive to give life to your sentence:

Click image to see larger

Click image to see larger

*Word of caution on the word “said” and replacing it. Do so sparingly! “Said” is the wood paneling in every 70’s home: not particularly pretty, but so common you don’t even notice when you see it. If you start replacing every “said” with something colorful, it will stand out like a sore thumb. Only use a descriptive word here when it is important to differentiate your dialogue from simple talking.

Click image to see larger

Click image to see larger

And if all of that isn’t enough, here are a few more links to charts and lists of strong verbs to help boost your verb vocabulary:

Strong Verbs to Persuade on Mrs. Swanda’s Writing Resources
Email Writing Tips: How to Keep Your Prospecting Emails Short on Radius.com (This one is aimed at emails, but applies to all writing in many ways)
Strong Action Verbs on AirforceWriter.com

Hope some of this is helpful in your quest for “perfect” writing abilities. Yeah, that endless (and unatainable) quest we all pursue! 🙂

Look for Newbie Post #12: Describing Emotion in Writing

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