Friday, March 1, 2019

Writing Tips for Kids 7 - Use Strong Verbs

by Susan Stephenson,

Last year I began a series of Writing Tips for Kids. This is the seventh in the series. Over coming weeks you’ll see more short articles, each of them addressing young writers and dealing with a topic helpful to them. I’ve created a new List for these articles and will add to it over time. The List is embedded below.

What is a strong verb and why do we use them?

A strong verb is a word we can do (or be, or have) that is specific, one that shows us more layers of meaning than a weak one.

Here’s an example in a simple sentence: The girl went through the forest.

We know there was a girl and somehow she got through the forest. But we know nothing about the way she moved. Let’s choose a more powerful verb, a more specific one that suits what’s happening in the story. This will give readers a clearer picture and make the story more interesting. Perhaps our girl is actually terrified and she’s trying to escape from a monster. We could write: The girl fled through the forest. Our new sentence shows she’s running away and going fast. Or if the girl is trying to throw the monster off her trail, we could write: The girl zig-zagged through the forest. Went is a weak verb that doesn’t show as much of the action.

Can you see the weak verb in this sentence? She went to school. But if: She skipped to school, we see more about how she went, get a picture of what her body did to get there.

Which one of the next sentences paints the clearest picture?

He went across the floor. / He crawled across the floor. / He dragged his mangled body across the floor.

Crawled and dragged are both stronger than went, but in the third sentence, we’ve added extra words that make the picture even clearer and more specific.

Here are some more sentences. Choose the one that makes the picture clearest:

“Help!” Edward called. / “Help!” Edward screamed, his throat tight with terror. / “Help!” Edward yelled.

Can you write this next sentence more powerfully?

The cat hurt the woman’s face.

When you write something for the first time, it can be a good idea to jot your ideas down without worrying about changes. But when you edit your work, look for places you can make your writing clearer and more powerful. Changing a weak verb for a strong one is one excellent way to do this.

You might also like to read Writing Tips for Kids - How to Start, Writing Tips for Kids 2 - Write What You Know, Writing Tips for Kids 3 - Developing Characters, Writing Tips for Kids 4 - Writing Funny Stories, Writing Tips for Kids 5 - Start with a Hook, Writing Tips for Kids 6 - Remove Repetitions. 

Clipart Credit: Phillip Martin

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