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[Word Wise] Easy Writing Tip: Use Strong Verbs for Stronger Writing
June 04, 2015

Write Better. Right Away.

Volume 11, Number 4 ... ISSN: 1933-9690

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FEATURE: Easy Writing Tip: Use Strong Verbs for Stronger Writing

Image: The Illustrated Professor

Part 4 of Five Simple Steps for Better Writing

Every sentence contains a verb (or two or three or more.)

Verbs are the heart of a sentence. If you use strong verbs, you have a better chance of producing strong writing.

There are at least three ways to recognize strong verbs over weak verbs.

  1. Strong verbs convey action.
    Weak: Andy was confused.
    Strong: Andy paused, scratching his head to think.
    Action verbs are stronger than “be” verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been). They paint a picture of activity, often using sensory details. In the “strong verb” example above, the verbs reveal Andy’s confusion.

  2. Strong verbs convey how the action takes place.
    Weak: Sheri talked until midnight.
    Strong: Sheri chattered until midnight.
    Strong verbs build a specific, colorful image in the reader’s mind. This “strong verb” example lets you picture Sheri’s long-windedness. Her “chatter” indicates an ongoing stream of words, some trivial or mindless – quite a different mental image than simple talking.

  3. Strong verbs show who takes action.
    Weak: The paper was finished by Chelsea before the deadline.
    Strong: Chelsea finished the paper before the deadline.
    Strong verbs portray classic active construction over passive construction. The paper isn’t “doing” the action here. Chelsea is. You can avoid passive construction when you place the subject in front of the verb, rather than after it. You link the subject to the verb’s direct action.
Writing Fix: What To Do

Review the verbs in your piece.
Replace “be” verbs with action words.
Replace vague action verbs with descriptive action verbs.
Replace passive construction with active construction.

Look for Part 5 in the next issue of Word Wise!

Read more writing basics here.

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More Easy Tips for Stronger Writing

4 Writing Tips to Make Your Writing Clearer and Stronger How To Write Cleaner for Better Results A Proven 7-Step Writing Formula Newbie Copywriting FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

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