Using Descriptive Verbs and Nouns

Just as poor word choices can make your writing weak, wise word choices can make your writing stronger. One of the most powerful weapons in a writer's arsenal is the language itself — using action verbs and more descriptive nouns make for more powerful writing because it forces you to be clear and precise in your word choices. It also gives your writing the sense of immediacy — the “active voice” — that it desperately needs to capture and keep the reader's attention.

Often a new writer of any genre will use twelve words to describe what could be adequately covered by three. Not only can choosing the right words make your work stronger, it can quicken the pace.

Choosing the Right Verbs

Verbs come in two types — linking verbs, such as is, was, and are — and action verbs, such as run, walk, talk, or dance. Of the two verb forms, action verbs support a more active writing voice. But not all action verbs are the same. Some depend on an adverb to clarify their meaning while others paint a more descriptive image in the reader's mind of the action being performed.

For example:

  • Instead of walked slowly and steadily, use trudged or plodded

  • Instead of sat down heavily, use plopped or collapsed

  • Instead of lifted the box with great effort, use hoisted the box

  • Instead of cried uncontrollably, use sobbed

When choosing an action verb, strive to find the one that best conveys the image you are trying to evoke. Be specific, rather than general.

Since your words paint a picture for the reader, choose action verbs that match your scene's emotional tone. For example, use verbs that convey an element of danger for suspense scenes and verbs that convey a sense of whimsy for humorous scenes.

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