Jordan Ogren

April 27, 2021

How strong verbs lead to better writing.

I hated English class in high school. 

Verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns—puke.

But I wish I would have realized then how important they are.

This became evident to me while reading Mastering the Craft of Writing by Stephen Wilbers.

The topic at hand was writing with detail. And how it’s a dance between too specific and too general.

Most of us end up on the generic end of that spectrum. I know I do.

But then he popped a nugget in that made me reread the entire paragraph. Here’s the nugget:

“Writing with detail involves more than adding specific information. It also involves using specific verbs rather than general ones.” — Stephen Wilbers.

Damn it. I should have paid more attention to verbs.

But why is using specific and stronger verbs important?

“Using strong verbs relieves you of an overreliance on adjectives and adverbs.” — Stephen Wilbers.

This hit me hard in the face. I rely waaaaay too much on adjectives, as I did in the prior sentence (hard is an adverb that would be unneeded if hit was a stronger verb).

Here is a better sentence using Stephen's advice: “That slapped me in the face.”

When you use stronger verbs, you can skip the adjectives and adverbs and write more concisely.

Here’s an example from the book:

“The sales representative talked incoherently” (Bad)
“The sales representative babbled.” (Good)

Here’s one final example:

“My boss spoke continuously for forty-five minutes” (Bad)
“My boss droned on for forty-five minutes.” (Good)

This simple tip has helped me realize I need to do some more foundational English work to write better.

I need to expand my vocabulary to enhance my writing by having more verbs to choose from.

What about you?

Do you use strong verbs when writing, or do you over-rely on adjectives and adverbs?

🧠 // JO