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Tone up your verbs for tighter writing

by on 22 Feb, 2014

You can make your written and verbal communications much more effective by toning up your verbs.  A large minority of my students would not be able to find the verb in a complex sentence.  I can see from a lot of corporate communications that the same is true of many writers.

Verbs as muscles

The verbs are often flabby.  Verbs are the muscles of writing, the doing words which show action.  The tighter those verbs are the more direct the writing.

Take this sentence: “Despite the time she had spent practicing, she felt fear about making the speech.”  Not too bad but off the mark for toned verbs.

Where’s the main verb?  Some would say “spent” as in “to spend”.  But no, that’s not the main one.  This sentence opens with a subordinate clause, the main clause is at the end.  Look there and we see “felt”, “to feel” in the past tense.  That’s the main verb.

It’s flabby

But it’s a bit flabby: we have to add the adverb “fear” to get our meaning across.  Yet there is a verb “to fear”.  So a toned verb would be: “Despite the time she had spent practicing, she feared making the speech.”    And do you see how that extra word “about” can go.  The sentence gets tighter.

Get to the main verb fast

But what is a verb “spent” doing before the main verb?  It’s always a good rule to get the main verb in front.  So turn the sentence around and make it: “She feared making the speech, despite the time she had spent practicing.”   In this final form we get the fear over first.

Working on the tone of your verbs can always lead to tighter writing.

Free worksheet

If you want help finding or toning your verbs email me for a simple free one-page worksheet.

Have a go at our Caption Competition and win a free e-learning course of your choice!

 

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One Comment
  1. good points well made.

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