Do you know that the choice of verbs and adverbs the writer uses can make a powerful impact on the reader? Most of the time, as writers, we tend to be overly focused on the story plot and often forget about the basic principles of writing such as:
- choice of verbs
- choice of adverbs
Why is the choice of verbs and adverbs important, you may ask? Let Ms Nellie show you just exactly why!
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Using the right verb to describe an action or behaviour makes an impact on the reader by enabling him to imagine how the character carries out the action or behaves. Similarly, an adverb modifies the verb and tells the reader more about how the character does the action or what his mannerisms are.
For instance, let’s look at this example:
Ethan opened the gate and ran through the garden.
If we look at the sentence, the key verbs are ‘opened’ and ‘ran’. Both these verbs are generic verbs that do not tell the reader how exactly the actions are carried out. Let’s swap these generic verbs with vivid verbs and see what effect it has on the reader.
Ethan flung the gate open and sprinted through the garden
As a reader, can you now picture how the main character carried out the actions? The vivid verb ‘flung’ tells you that he pushed the gate open with force, which indicates that he must have been in a hurry. Similarly, the vivid verb ‘sprinted’ tells you that Ethan ran at full speed through the garden. From this, we can infer that he must have been in a rush to get to his destination so he simply ran out in great haste.
Going back to the previous example, we can also choose to retain the generic verbs ‘opened’ and ‘ran’ but modify these actions by adding adverbs instead. For instance,
Ethan opened the gate forcefully and ran hastily through the garden.
By adding the adverbs ‘forcefully’ and ‘hastily’, this has the same effect on the reader who imagines that Ethan must have been in a great hurry to get to his destination.
What are some generic verbs we should replace?
Think about generic verbs commonly used for actions such as:
Let us look at some vivid verbs that can replace four of the generic ones found in the previous table:
What do you notice about these vivid verbs listed above? Yes, they specify the manner in which the action is carried out. Let’s take a look at two examples to see how vivid verbs help to create more impactful sentences:
Regina ate a bread roll.
Regina chomped on a bread roll.
This indicates that Regina ate the bread roll noisily. Can you see that when the generic verb ‘ate’ is replaced with ‘chomped’ the description becomes richer? We can almost hear Regina eating her bread roll!
Charles looked at the woman wearing a green dress.
(A) Charles glanced at the woman wearing a green dress.
(B) Charles glared at the woman wearing a green dress.
In example 2, do you see how the situation changes when a different vivid verb is used? Sentence (A) tells you that Charles took a very quick look at the woman in a green dress but he was not too bothered by her. In sentence (B), the reader gets the impression that Charles must have felt very angry with the woman in the green dress and therefore, glared at her. The reader then infers that an incident must have happened earlier which made Charles angry with the woman. I hope it is clear from this example that your choice of verbs matters, especially when you are trying to convey clearly the situation in which the character finds himself in in the story.
Also, do remember that the table of vivid verbs that I have shared earlier is not an exhaustive list as there are definitely more vivid verbs to replace the generic ones. I am sure you can think of many more to add to the list!
Now that we have learnt about why verbs and adverbs are important in writing, let’s move on to the next part:
How do we choose the appropriate verbs and adverbs to use in our writing?
In order to do this, here are 3 guiding questions that can help you along:
- How did the character feel at that point in time?
- What was his/her intentions?
- What is the effect you (as the writer) want to create in the reader’s mind?
To illustrate what I mean, imagine this situation:
Daryl was furious with his younger brother Gerard because he would often take Daryl’s favourite toys from the toy box without asking for permission. Daryl wanted to reprimand Gerard severely.
Let’s use the guiding questions to help us unpack the situation:
The next step is to think about which vivid verbs you should choose that would clearly illustrate Daryl’s anger through his actions and mannerisms. For instance:
Your description would look something like this:
Daryl was fuming as he glowered at the mess Gerard had made. How could his brother simply pull out all his favourite toys from his toy box and play with them without asking for his permission? His favourite army tanks were now strewn haphazardly all over the floor and the toy soldiers he loved were missing limbs. He was determined to give Gerard a tongue-lashing he would never forget. Flouncing out of the room, Daryl screeched, “Gerard! Look at what you have done!”
In situations when you are writing a dialogue and are not able to think of a suitable verb to replace ‘said’, you can add an adverb instead. Take a look at these examples of adverbs that you can use in Daryl’s scenario:
Do make sure that the adverb that you add is able to create the same effect on the reader i.e. to convey clearly Daryl’s anger towards his brother. If we look again at the previous example, the last sentence will look something like this: Flouncing out of the room, Daryl said furiously, “Gerard! Look at what you have done!”
To sum up, writers choose the verbs and adverbs to put in their writing carefully in order to make their writing more impactful. I hope this video has helped you understand how using precise verbs and adding adverbs will help your reader visualise better the events happening in your story. Now that you know how to use vivid verbs and adverbs appropriately, I hope you will apply them in your writing. Till the next time we meet again, adios!