Being Concise Leads to a Clear Image Verbs energize. An action verb generates more drama and emotion than a noun, adjective or adverb of similar meaning. Compare:The children wept when their dog died. (Strong verbs: wept, died)The children shed tears over the death of their dog. (Nouns: tears, death)The children were sad when their dog was dead. (Weak verb to be + adjectives: sad, dead) Use vivid verbs, powerful verbs, to fizz up the action, paint word-pictures, and evoke feelings in your readers.
Verbs Are Made to Be Active Use active verbs rather than passive. Active verbs rivet readers attention; passive verbs weaken your writing. Compare: Kim broke the jar. (Active verb) The jar was broken by Kim. (Passive verb) The first example is strong, precise and concise; the second sounds insipid. The active verb in the first example charges the sentence with a vitality and directness that compels attention. In the second example, however, the passive verb has slowed down the action and made the sentence unnecessarily wordy.
The Verb Should Be in Action Some forms of verbs are more concise, direct and dramatic than others. Compare: The clock is striking twelve. The clock strikes twelve. Verbs ending in -ing (for example, striking, prowling, shouting) are weaker than their shorter forms (strike, prowl, shout).
Set the Mood A strong verb creates a mood or an image simply by its sound or connotations: for example, instead of the word walk, use more evocative words like saunter, stride, strut or swagger. Water can gush, gurgle, spurt or squirt out; villains may scoff, sneer, jeer or taunt; and as for the loot, let it gleam, glitter, sparkle or dazzle. Vivid verbs appeal to the readers senses of sight, sound, touch or smell. Like these: Falstaff sweats to death, And lards the lean earth as he walks along. (From Henry IV, Part 1, Act 2, Scene 2, by William Shakespeare) Tonight the winds begin to rise And roar from yonder dropping day: The last red leaf is whirld away, The rooks are blown about the skies; The forest crack’d, the waters curl’d, The cattle huddled on the lea; And wildly dash’d on tower and tree The sunbeam strikes along the world. (From In Memoriam, by Alfred Lord Tennyson)
Create Music Strong verbs also evoke the music of words. When choosing verbs, discern with your inner ear: do the sounds of the words carry the meaning and mood you want to convey? Is it melody or discord that you hear? Do the verbs stimulate this word music for readers?
Use the Correct Tense1. When writing about literature ALWAYS write in present tense!2. Keep the same verb tense throughout.
Think/Pair/Share1. In 60 seconds come up with as many exciting and unusual verbs as you can.2. In 120 seconds get with a partner and scratch out any repeat verbs and add any more if you can.3. Share with the class.