What is the difference between a taut, compelling piece of writing and one that drifts aimlessly, soft at its belly like a thirty-year old former high school athlete who’s gotten a bit too comfortable on the couch, if you know what I mean? Basically, the two share a fundamental weakness – a lack of real activity.
In life, that means getting up off the couch and working those muscles. In writing, it means verbs!
Verbs excite. Verbs compel. Verbs hit hard. They explode with action. That is, they do when they are well-chosen and written in the active voice.
Verbs can also be written in the passive voice.
Which conveys action in a way that brings life to your writing:
“Suzie smacked the rude boy” or “The rude boy was smacked (by Suzie.)” Putting aside the boy’s rudeness, Suzie’s take charge and strong response is best conveyed by the first example, the active voiced verb.
We learn two things from this:
1. The active voiced verb is almost always the best choice, and;
2. Don’t be rude to Suzie.
In the English language, we also have “verbs of being” – “is” “are” “will be” “was”. Almost always, using these verbs rather than more expressive verbs weakens your writing because using them forces you to rely on adverbs to convey what you’re really trying to say.
Writers who are unsure of what they want to say almost always hide behind weak writing. But, as the saying goes, you can run but you can’t hide. Passive verbs. Verbs of being. Bland verbs. They will always give you away. Spice up your verbs. Minimize your adverbs (I’ll talk more about adverbs another time.)
Now, get up off the couch and give me twenty… great sentences that is!
- David Woolfe
P.O. Box 124
Atlantic Beach, NY 11509
tel. (516) 371-1750