How to boost your writing by using strong verbs

Every sentence needs a subject and a verb – and the stronger your verb, the stronger your sentence.

Instead of writing:

I really do not like boiled asparagus.


I loathe boiled asparagus.

A single strong word is always better than several weaker ones. Instead of writing:

I walked gingerly.


I tiptoed.


Be specific

Specific words are strong because they help build a vivid picture in the reader’s mind.

Think of the difference between slurp and drink, or strut and walk.

You never want to exaggerate – but if someone slurps or struts, then say so. It’s far better than writing: drinks loudly and messily or walks in a cocky manner.


Be straightforward

Strong verbs are also straightforward.

Instead of writing:

Get an eyeful of the action at the outdoor cinema.


Watch the action at the outdoor cinema.

Whoever wrote Get an eyeful was probably trying to be creative – but it doesn’t improve the writing. It simply makes it longer.

Now, if you come up with a turn of phrase that’s genuinely inspired – ie it makes the reader see things in a different way, or laugh out loud, or evokes a strong image – then by all means use it. If not, however, then you’re better off using a simple verb that says exactly what it needs to.


Avoid saying “not”

If the word not appears in the middle of a verb phrase, then think about whether you can say the same thing in less words.

For example, instead of writing:

Dan did not keep walking.


Dan stopped walking. 

or even:

Dan halted.


Good communication is ultimately about clarity and word choice – and choosing the right verb is crucial.


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