Thursday, October 4, 2012


"Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few."  

When I'm first laying down a draft, I ignore sentence structure and punctuation. So when I jump back into revisions, I've got my work cut out for me. And one thing I really zero in on is my verb usage.

 I attempt to rid the manuscript of as many "to be" verbs as I can (which translates to was and were for me in past tense) and highlight where my weak verbs are anchored by adverbs.

The idea is to use strong verbs, which chops down word count, makes me concise, and strengthens my sentences.

Here are some examples of weak verb/adverbs pairs that can be replaced by stronger verbs:

slowly pull: drag or lug

gently touch: graze or brush

strongly place: jut, slam or jab

hold tight: grasp or clutch

run silently: dart or dash

step quickly: sprint or dash

voice growing rough: husky or gruff

grabs gently: tugs or pulls (not as strong as yanks)

turn around slowly: twist, coil, twirl

furiously shakes: tremble, shudder, quake

quickly looks up: head snaps up

walk slowly: inch or labor

slowly lift: tug, tow, or heave

step quietly: tiptoe, sneak, or creep

You get the idea. 

Do you ever fall into this weak construction trap? Or are there others--aren't there always others? :-)



Laura S. said...

I fall into these traps during my first drafts, too, haha. I figure that's okay as long as I fix it in the revisions. Phew, good thing writing is a profession in which the first time doesn't have to be perfect. I like it that we get second (and third, fourth, fifth...) chances!

Stina said...

I did. I'm hopefully getting better at it. :)

Matthew MacNish said...

I often go too far with this. You do want colorful, active verbs in place of weak construction almost whenever possible, but you don't want to get too metaphorical, either.

I do love that run silently becomes dart, thought. That's just awesome.

Christina Lee said...

Matt, I hear you! I predict you’ll use the word dart somewhere—LOL!!!

Amy said...

Love that quote - long-winded copy drives me bananas.

Kelly Polark said...

Great verbs!

I do the same. Get the story down and fix later. And I'm now revising for the bajillionth time!

Unknown said...

Fantastic post! I can definitely admit to falling into the trap, but if something can be said in one word, it is often best to just use the one word.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I too try to avoid the use of "to be" including as a helping verb. But when I got the line edits back on my most recent manuscript, I was surprised by how many "to be's" the editor put back in.

For example: changing "stood" to "was standing." I realized I had to be careful about precise verb tense. Using simple past tense just to get rid of the helping verb made some sentences grammatically inaccurate.

Now I try to be more precise, although occasionally the difference between the two goes right over my head.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Uhhh, I just spent a week reviewing every -"ing" ending in my latest manuscript. There were so many, it's embarrassing.

Christina Lee said...

Interesting Dianne, but makes sense too--doesn't apply to everything!

Martina Boone said...

Great list, Christina. Thanks so much for sharing it! I always love to find unexpected verbs. I find that when I come across that in a book, that is inevitably the passage that I end up remembering the most.



Maddy said...

This is actually very helpful! I definitely can use this knowledge in my own blog post writing. Less is more in this case!