In lesson one, we learnt how important it in writing to show and not tell in your essay/story. But how do you show? In this lesson, we are going to learn one powerful way to show more and tell less by using strong verbs.
How to write with Strong Verbs?
What are strong verbs?
You have known from grade 1 that verb is a word used to describe an action. But what’re strong verbs? It’s not like they can hit the gym and bulk up, right?
A strong verb is a better and more descriptive version of a basic verb that creates a stronger image. It can help create a mood (or vibe) for the scene. For those of you who struggle with showing and not telling, focusing on using better verbs will help tremendously.
Pancakes are best when eaten with honey or syrup.
Pancakes are best when drizzled with honey or syrup.
Here, the verb “drizzle” is a strong verb because it helps us imagine a thin stream of honey or syrup being poured over pancakes. This engages our senses and makes reading more enjoyable.
Which verbs can be weak verbs and how can you make them strong?
While you are free to use any ratio of weak and strong verbs you feel is right, there are certain verbs which are likely to weaken your sentences.
* The state of being verbs
* Verbs followed by adverbs
* Vague verbs
The state of being verbs
Any verbs used to describe a state of being, including these terms: is, am, are, was were, be, being, been also called to be verbs.
In order to make your writer stronger, it’s important to know when to use them and when they’re making your writing clunky and weak.
Here are a few examples of how to replace to be verbs with something stronger for your writing:
“To Be” Verbs Sentence
Replacing “To Be” Verbs
Replacing Weak Verb with Strong Verb
|She was walking through the corridor.||She walked through the corridor.||She slinked through the corridor.|
|Conrad is afraid of the dark.||Conrad fears the dark.||Conrad cowers from the darkness.|
|I was being chased by someone I didn’t know.||I was chased by someone I didn’t know.||Someone I didn’t know chased after me.|
|I was wanting to visit this forest for as long as I can remember.||I wanted to visit this forest for as long as I can remember.||I longed to visit this forest for as long as I can remember.|
First and foremost, the “state of being” verbs such as be, have, and do (in all of their forms) often need to be replaced by a strong verb. Needless to say, these words are absolutely necessary and will probably comprise a large portion of the total number of verbs used in an article.
Nevertheless, they are often simply put in a sentence because of a lack of creativity, and they compromise the quality of the sentence by not saying much. The state of being verbs rarely point out to clear action.
Sometimes they are perfectly fine.
He is tall. (There is no other way to say it).
I have to do laundry today.
Other times, the sentence will be more effective if the state of being verb is replaced.
* I am delighted to see your performance is better.
I am delighted that your performance improved.
* I am sure you will do great.
I am sure you will excel.
The state of being verbs can also be simply redundant. They do not need to be replaced but only taken out of the sentence.
Verbs followed by Adverbs
Secondly, Verbs which rely on Adverbs to convey a clear, descriptive meaning are not considered strong verbs. Most of the time, stronger alternatives exist which can replace the weak Verb + Adverb structure.
The day passed slowly. The day dragged.
His daughter laughed quietly. His daughter chuckled.
Jenny hurriedly wrote the instructions on a piece of paper. Jenny scribbled the instructions on a piece of paper.
While writing with Verbs, whenever you have an Adverb, you should replace it with a stronger Verb.
That’s all an adverb is. It gives your weak verb a boost but it doesn’t actually make your sentence any stronger.
When you’re writing, you may have a tendency to write sentences like, “I gripped the steering wheel firmly.” While this doesn’t look like a terrible sentence, it also doesn’t convey a very strong visual.
Instead, replace “gripped firmly” with a powerful verb like “clenched” or “squeezed.”
“I clenched the steering wheel” is a much stronger sentence that gives a clearer visual.
Go through your writing and pick out some adverbs to replace. Your writing will be better because of it.
Writing with Vague Verbs
Thirdly, some verbs can be considered to be vague. This means they do not give much information and readers may want to know how the action is done. Sometimes, their vague meaning is fine, but if overused, these vague verbs can confuse the reader about what is going on in the story.
As the rain was falling, Jacob said: “I love you.
“As the rain was falling, Jacob whispered: “I love you.”
As the rain was falling, Jacob yelled: “I love you!”
In this case, stating that Jacob said those words is fine. However, it makes a huge difference to use one strong verb to explain how he did it. Evidently, the picture the reader creates in their mind will greatly differ depending on whether Jacob whispered or yelled.
I think I did the task.
I think I completed the task.
I think I aced the task.
Put in this context, the verb do makes it unclear what exactly happened with the task. If we replace it with complete, we will know the subject finished doing it. On the other hand, aced implies the subject completed with great success.
STRONG Verb forces you to think more about the visual you’re trying to show the reader instead of just telling them what happened. Because showing creates a stronger emotional connection between the reader and your book, replacing weak verbs with more powerful ones will hook your readers.
Next, we will learn how to hook your readers and reel them in to ensure that you have an interested audience for your writing.
In the meantime do write back with questions and samples of your work so we can all learn from it.