Quick quiz: Which is a better punch-line word: “pickle” or “ice”? According to comedy writers, the answer is “pickle,” because consonants sound funnier than vowels. Who knew?
Needless to say, there are all kinds of ideas out there about revising your writing to improve it — and who knows, maybe adding some consonants can give a story a lift. But here’s one tip I came across in a newsletter article by Kim Tomsic called, “Let the Verbs Do the Heavy Lifting:” choosing vibrant verbs can help you drive your story forward and keep readers engaged.
To energize your verbs, Kim suggests using the “Find” tool on your computer to search for all the lackluster “to be” verbs like be, am, are, was, were, became, and so on. Once you’ve located each of these verbs in your draft, take a few moments to ponder whether a more colorful, dynamic verb could juice up your prose.
Kim offers this example: “John was mad when Mary kissed his best friend.” Sounds a bit passive, doesn’t it? Replace the verb “was” with a fresher, more energetic verb and you can make the whole sentence sound more active. Here’s Kim’s suggestion: “John flipped out when Mary kissed his best friend.” Sounds peppier, doesn’t it? Another example: “It was raining” vs. “Rain hammered the roof.”
Once you’ve spiced up your draft by revising “to be” verbs, Kim suggests a second strategy: consider replacing adjectives and adverbs with a “shrewd verb” to tighten your prose. The process is simple: review each use of an adjective or adverb and see if you can find a replacement verb that cuts unnecessary words and spruces up your sentences at the same time. Example: “John walked quickly to the kitchen” vs. “John rushed to the kitchen.”
Wow! These are simple techniques and yet they can make a big difference. Ferreting out those “to be” verbs and coming up with juicier ones actually sounds like fun. I’m definitely going to jump on this one! How about you? Write on!