19. Use Strong Verbs

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There is a lot of debate on adverbs. Are they good or bad? Rather than continue that debate, the crux of the matter is adverbs are often used as a crutch for weak verbs. Weak verbs have less impact, requiring more words to be added to deliver the same punch. What we want is to deliver that punch as efficiently as possible. Here are a few examples to get you started...

WEAK: He looked over his shoulder angrily.

STRONG: He glared over his shoulder.

WEAK: "I can't just leave," she said sadly.

STRONG: "I can't just leave" she lamented.

WEAK: The day was brilliantly sunny as I looked out the window.

STRONG: The sun cast brilliant rays through the window.

In the last example, we switched out the weak verb "was" for a more active verb, "cast". The adverb "brilliantly" was then transformed into an adjective to modify "rays", which paints us a better picture using fewer words.

Strong verbs can also help us be less wordy. Take this example:

WEAK: His walk had a limp as he made his way to the car.

STRONG: He limped to the car.

Fewer words mean you get your point across faster, making your story easier to read. Stories that are easier to read are also easier to get into, and what reader doesn't want to dive past the words and get into a story? So break out that thesaurus and dig up those strong verbs. Your sentences will thank you for it.

Lena-Presents found an excellent reference that lists active alternative verbs to replace commonly overused weak ones. It's a PDF file, but it's a great list. I've created an external link to it.


Here's a strong verb: VOTE! ;-)

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