September 1, 2011
Posted In: Verbs


I love how this reminds me of an Ipod poster.
There are lots of ways to strengthen a sentence. Adding sharper details, changing the punctuation, reordering the structure… I like to go for the simple approach: modifying the verb.

Using common verbs lends the manuscript to sound a little bland. Use robust verbs to help the reader feel more like a participant in the scene.

Walked – ambled, sauntered, lumber, strolled, shuffled, staggered, etc.
Ran –jogged, skittered,  hurried, dashed, galloped, loped, etc.
Cry – whimpered, sobbed, sniveled, bawled, wailed, blubbered, howled, etc.

Using the Edit>Find tool search the novel for the following words, and replace them with something stronger, or rewrite the sentence to omit the word.

Was/were- This is one of the weakest verbs at your disposal.

She was rather plump.
Her fully fleshed stomach and bust swayed each time she moved.

Seemed– This is a non-committal verb. It lets you sit on the fence without picking a side. I try to only use it when I need to avoid a POV violation.  

He seemed old for his age. 
He left no impression of innocence and irresponsibility characteristic of boys his age. 

Began/Started– These are also  non-committal verbs. 

She started to cross the room.
She crossed the room. *
*Unless, she started to cross the room and then the floor falls out before she reaches the other side.

Knew– The POV implies that the character already knows .
 She knew he hated her. 
 He hated her.


  1. Sarah Ahiers

    this is a great post! I always do a find for was and were while editing. They always sneak in

  2. Jackie

    "Was" is my nemesis. :/

    Awesome post!

  3. julie fedderson

    Great post! Death to the evil was!

  4. Unknown

    Someone gave me a list of NO-NO's (was, blah, blah, blah)… in return I've taken my list of no-no's and picked through my manuscript to allow myself more time to be creative!!!

    Verbs can be so fun as long as you allow them to be!

    Your blog is fabulous – I'm digging the background! I do hope you'll stop in and say hello! I love meeting new blog buddies!

  5. Weaver

    Wonderful list. Search and replace is a brilliant technological achievement.

  6. Melinda

    Thanks for the advice on these blasted things. Always in need of a fresh reminder!

Who is Kimberlee Turley?

Kimberlee Turley grew up in California where she earned a degree in Fashion Design from FIDM in 2005. Soon after, she married her husband, who was neither Mr. Darcy nor Edward Cullen, but he’d read her atrocious first novel and said it was “good” with a straight face.

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