Strong Verbs: An Easy Guide for Using & Understanding Strong Verbs

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.

strong verbs

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:

  1. What is a strong verb?
  2. FREE downloadable 200+ strong verbs list
  3. Strong verbs versus weak verbs
  4. Weak verbs to replace in writing
  5. What are to be verbs
  6. To be verbs list
  7. How to use strong verbs the right way
  8. Why you should use strong verbs
  9. Strong action verbs for better writing

I never struggled with putting my thoughts on paper or even coming up with the story ideas in the first place. In fact, outlining a book is one of my favorite things to do!

Nope.

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.

DOWNLOAD 200+ STRONG VERBS HERE


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 VerbStrong Verb Variations
RunBolt, sprint, jog
WalkSlink, trot, mope
MakeCreate, forge, foster, brew
SaySpeak, 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.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

Click Here to Save Your Spot

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 SentenceReplacing "To Be" VerbsReplacing 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:

  • Am
  • Are
  • Be
  • Been
  • Being
  • Can
  • Could
  • Did
  • Do
  • Does
  • Had
  • Has
  • Have
  • Is
  • May
  • Might
  • Must
  • Shall
  • Should
  • Was
  • Were
  • Will
  • Would

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.

strong verbs definition

#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

strong verbs list

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:

  • Slam
  • Strike
  • Crash
  • Slice
  • Smash
  • Ram
  • Smack
  • Bang
  • Dash
  • Bolt
  • Charge
  • Shoot
  • Bound
  • Plunge
  • Hurl
  • Fling
  • Lob
  • Carve
  • Forge
  • Force

What to do Next

It’s not enough to just know what strong verbs are and how to use them. You actually have to put these tips to use in your own book and implement what you’ve learned.

Here’s what you can do right now to improve your writing and your book!

#1 – Attend your FREE training

All of this advice is relatively useless without a plan for finishing, marketing, and self-publishing your book.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

Click Here to Save Your Spot

#2 – Watch our instructional editing video

Sometimes it’s hard to take what you’ve learned and actually implement it in your own writing. How do you know which words to replace and which are already good?

I put together a video teaching you how to edit your own writing when replacing basic verbs with stronger, better ones.

Make sure to check it out and even comment which part of the video was most helpful to you!

#3 – Create your own strong verbs list!

Editing is made so much easier and faster when you don’t have to constantly look up words to replace your weak verbs.

And you know what? It’s something you can easily do in a short amount of time.

That’s right. We suggest putting together a list of strong verbs and which weak verbs they’re great for replacing. All you need to do is find the weak verb you want to replace and choose a more powerful word from your list that fits the mood you’re trying to convey.

Do you use strong verbs? What’s your #1 question regarding strong verbs and using them in your writing?

Bella Rose Pope

Bella Rose Pope is the Content Creation Specialist here at Self-Publishing School. While she's not whipping up content here, she's creating her own Youtube videos, fiction writing tips blog posts, hanging out with her dog, and eating something with cheese!Give her a follow: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube

Comments From The Community


8 thoughts on “Strong Verbs: An Easy Guide for Using & Understanding Strong Verbs”

  • The examples were eye-opnening. Very specific, clear explantions. Thx so much. Will take further action with your course.

  • I really liked the strong verbs piece. Thanks! Some further thoughts: I work at improving my writing by self-editing using the “find” function in MS Word. I’ll take a 5-8 page selection and first search for weak action verbs like “did,” “had,” “performed,” “conducted,” etc. I’m looking for wordy expressions like “I had a sudden desire to…” or “I did a thorough examination of….” These are examples of a writer generalizing ABOUT the action instead of immersing the reader IN the action. “Run” is a generalization. “Dart,” “charge,” and “scramble” are very specific physical actions that convey different emotional states. “When I find sentences like these I revise them completely by visualizing what the character or person IS PHYSICALLY DOING, and then use a strong verb to capture the action. “I did a thorough examination of…” becomes “I took my time picking through all the junk at the bottom of the battered trunk..”
    I do the same thing with all forms of the verb “”to be”: “am, is, are, was, were,” etc. “He was suddenly overcome by a surge of anger” is talking about the character’s action. What was the character DOING? “He threw the picture to the floor, shattering the frame.”

    Next I search for “that” and “which.” (My old writing instructor called it “going on a which hunt.”) In many cases you can just delete the “that” or “which,” as in “…the book that was on the table….”

    I search for all words (adverbs) ending in “…ly.” “he laughed sarcastically” becomes “he smirked.”
    Finally, I search for prepositions like “to, in, at, for, of,” etc. (see above: “…he did a thorough examination of…”)
    A word of caution: Ordinary people don’t tend to speak or think like polished authors. Would your character say, “Hey! On the way out, “seize” (“grasp, clutch,”) a couple more beers, OK?” “Grab” might be more realistic.

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