“Action defines our reality. Time passes because things happen. And in writing, the verbs carry the action. One of the keys to writing more forcefully, then, is seeking out the most potent verbs available.”
Jack Hart, A Writer’s Coach
Verbs are fun to play with: Strong verbs can give our writing zest and energy, while weak verbs can make a sentence seem sluggish and ill-formed. Luckily, the English language is awash in rich streams of linguistic history. We can race, run, rush, sprint, lope, lunge. We can creep, crawl, slouch, slither, slink. Name an action and we have a bewitching and bewildering array of verbs to choose from.
A colorful verb can also do double duty. In his guide, On Writing Well, William Zinsser observes that “many verbs also carry in their imagery a suggestion of what they mean: flail, poke, dazzle, squash, beguile, pamper, wheedle, vex.”
Hunting for just the right verb — one with dash and drama — isn’t easy: The search can be time-consuming and it involves a decision not to settle for an also-ran when you can find a winner. Some writers feel it’s best to go with lackluster verbs at an early stage in order to keep a draft humming along and then pick and choose among more inspired choices during a redraft.
Whether you do your verb hunting early or late, why not have some fun? A dip into that sweet ocean of words floating in your dictionary or thesaurus can be bracing and emboldening. My trusty Roget’s yielded the following cornucopia for “ways of walking” — stroll, saunter, shuffle, straggle, shamble, stride, plod, trudge, traipse, lumber, stomp, limp, strut, swagger, mince, sashay, prance, flounce, skip, jog, amble, trundle — who could ask for anything more? Write on!