Strong verbs are essential for great writing.
Not only do you need to know HOW to use powerful verbs, but having a strong verbs list at your disposal is invaluable. We’ll cover both for you.
I used to think writing a book was easy.
And in all honesty, writing has never been the most difficult thing in the world for me but when it comes to writing stories and crafting my writing in a way that compels others and pulls them in deeply, it’s been an uphill battle – before I discovered using strong verbs along with interesting and cool words to use, that is.
Here’s how to use strong verbs:
- What is a strong verb?
- Free downloadable 300+ strong verbs list
- Strong verbs versus weak verbs
- Weak verbs to replace in writing
- What are to be verbs?
- To be verbs list
- How to use strong verbs the right way
- Why you should use strong verbs
- Strong action verbs for better writing
My biggest hurdle was bringing the emotion I was trying to convey to life.
And as I delved deeper into the literary world, I quickly realized that using strong verbs is a must if you want to create something that leaves a lasting impact.
Here’s a downloadable list of strong verbs for you to use:
What is a strong verb?
Thanks to every English class growing up, you know a verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence.
But what’s the deal with 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 visual and can help create a mood (or vibe) for the scene.
|Weak Verb||Strong Verb Variations|
|Run||Bolt, sprint, jog|
|Walk||Slink, trot, mope|
|Make||Create, forge, foster, brew|
|Say||Speak, voice, purr, mutter|
So although you can use the basic verb and still tell the same story, you will create a deeper impact within the reader if you use a strong verb in its place.
Strong verbs only help your writing
I’ll be real with you here. Using strong verbs will definitely make your writing more intriguing and will increase the chances of someone buying (and loving!) your book.
BUT, they won’t help you know how to publish a book that sells.
And what’s the point of having incredible writing if you can’t publish it in a way that allows for the world to see it?
Well, that’s where we come in. No matter how great your book is, you still need to know how to put it all together, market it, and then self-publish in a way that generates sales.
Strong verbs vs. weak verbs
What’s the real difference here? How can you tell the difference between a strong verb and a weak one?
Since you can’t exactly ask words to flex, you need another system to determine if your verbs are weak or not.
Here’s how we define strong verbs vs weak verbs:
Weak verbs are the “basic” forms of a specific action, like “walked” or “ran.”
Strong verbs are a specified form of a broader action, like “stomped” or “bolted.”
So the main thing you need to remember when it comes to strong verbs vs weak verbs is how specific it is.
Weak verbs to replace in writing
The weakest verbs you can replace in your writing are to be verbs. These pull your writing quality down and peg you as an amateur.
Other weak verbs include basic forms of any verb, like run, walk, say, sit.
Now, keep in mind that weak verbs are absolutely okay to use on occasion.
The issues arise when you’re using these verbs over and over again when there are better, stronger verbs you can use to make your writing more powerful.
Sometimes the best verb to use in a situation is the weak verb. Just keep a look out for how often you’re using that basic form so you can beef up your writing by replacing them in other places.
What are to be verbs & how to replace them in your writing?
To be verbs are any verbs used to describe a state of being, including these terms: is, am, are, was were, be, being, been.
In order to make your writer stronger, it’s important 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:
|"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.|
To be verbs list
One of the best ways you can strengthen your writing is to use strong to be verbs. These will instantly make your writing more compelling and less amateurish.
These are state-of-being verbs like to be verbs to look out for in your writing:
How to use strong verbs in writing
Littering your writing with strong verbs won’t necessarily make it any better. In fact, if you overdo it, those verbs will have the opposite effect.
Instead of making your writing stronger, it can bring it down to an amateur level.
That being said, I created the video below in order to help you understand how to use strong verbs in your writing the right way.
Why & how to use strong verbs in writing
Because your writing will be better overall. One of the best ways you can immediately make our writing stronger is by going through and crossing out each weak verb and replacing it with a better one.
Here’s how your writing will improve when you choose to use strong verbs.
1 – Stronger visuals
One of the most important parts of any book is that your readers can get a precise visual. If they’re going through the chapters not fully picturing what’s happening, they won’t be fully invested.
And readers who aren’t invested don’t become fans. And they don’t leave reviews. And they don’t buy any other books you publish.
Strong verbs take a basic sentence and form a very specific image in the reader’s mind. Doing this throughout the entirety of your book will leave your readers feeling as if they just stepped out of an entirely different world.
And that’s exactly what you want.
Take these strong verb descriptions for example:
- She walked into the room, her cape trailing after her.
- She charged into the room, her cape billowing after her.
- She strutted into the room, her cape flowing after her.
Each of these sentences is extremely similar in what they tell you; a girl with a cape entered a room.
But changing the verbs from “walked” to “charged” to “strutted” alters the way in which she entered.
It tells you the how.
And knowing how an action takes place sets up far more than just the image for the reader. It tells them the mood the character’s in, increases suspense in some cases, and even creates anticipation for what’s to follow.
2 – More impactful emotions
The goal of your book (and any book, really) is to make your reader feel something. You want to stir emotions in them.
That’s why they read books. That, and they want to be transported to a different world, which strong verbs are also used for.
But one of the main reasons to use strong verbs in writing is to create a more emotional impact.
When you want to create a strong reaction in your reader, no matter what type of reaction that is, you need to use strong verbs.
Here’s an example of creating more anxiety or anticipation in your readers:
- My heart was beating so fast I could hear it.
- My heart crashed against my ribs, echoing in my head.
Which sentence gives you a clearer picture of the anxiety that must be felt?
The second, right.
Because replacing “was beating fast” with “crashed against my ribs,” shows you just how hard my heart felt. And that’s the difference between a weak verb and a strong one.
3 – Helps you show, not tell
By now you know just how important showing versus telling is in writing. And one powerful way to show more and tell less is to use strong verbs.
It 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.
For those of you who struggle with showing and not telling, focusing on using better verbs will help tremendously.
4 – They reduce weak adverbs
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.
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.
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.
5 – They make for more concise writing
Have you ever picked up a book that looked decent enough and even had an awesome title only to start reading and be turned off by how wordy and jumbled it is?
Strong verbs prevent this.
When you replace weak verbs and adverbs with a single stronger verb, you get rid of the excess writing that can make reading harder.
It also saves you a ton of time cutting words during the editing phase.
Because you’re using one word to create a strong visual, you won’t have to write more trying to describe how it looks to you. That strong verb does the job for you.
This also allows for easier, more fluid writing and reading.
Strong action verbs for better writing
I won’t lie. One of the most frustrating things to read is a book that lacks strong verbs in scenes that are meant to be full of action.
You’ll find this most often in fiction, but nonfiction books can be just as (if not more!) guilty of this. When you have a story that should leave the reader’s heart pounding but it doesn’t even raise their eyebrows, you have to do some digging to improve.
Here’s a list of strong action verbs to improve your writing: