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