Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tip O'Day #235 - Powerful Verbs

Guest blogger Deborah Epperson on putting more power in your prose.

If you’ve been a writer longer than five minutes, you’ve heard the maxim, “Show, don’t tell.” To show actions, feelings, and relationships, we use verbs. Weak verbs are a writer’s kryptonite. Active verbs energize your writing. For example, “Sue wept when her cat died” is more powerful than “Sue was sad when her cat died.” The verb wept adds drama and emotion.

Action verbs also grab your reader’s attention. For example, “John staggered toward the door” is stronger, more precise, and paints a more vivid picture than “John walked unsteadily toward the door.”

While strong, action verbs add vitality and energy to your writing, there are times when passive verbs are useful, such as when you want to slow down the action, reduce the tension, or extend the narrative.

Finally, you should pick verbs that can stand alone and make your writing more concise. Ensure your readers receive a clear image of what you intend to communicate. By simply changing the verb, you can change the reader’s experience and expectations. Consider the difference between “The carriage dashed through the streets” and “The carriage rambled through the streets.”

To learn more about Deborah, the author of Breaking TWIG, check out https://ddepperson.wordpress.com

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