Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Use active verbs to convey power in your writing

Power verbs convey action.





Please avoid static verbs like

  • get / got
  • is / was / were (try to only use any form of "to be" 5 times in entire essay)





NY TIMES OPINIONATOR | DRAFT

Make-or-Break Verbs


By CONSTANCE HALE

Published: April 16, 2012
This is the third in a series of writing lessons by the author.

A sentence can offer a moment of quiet, it can crackle with energy or it can just lie there, listless and uninteresting.

What makes the difference? The verb.

Verbs kick-start sentences: Without them, words would simply cluster together in suspended animation. We often call them action words, but verbs also can carry sentiments (love, fear, lust, disgust), hint at cognition (realize, know, recognize), bend ideas together (falsify, prove, hypothesize), assert possession (own, have) and conjure existence itself (is, are).

Fundamentally, verbs fall into two classes: static (to be, to seem, to become) and dynamic (to whistle, to waffle, to wonder). (These two classes are sometimes called "passive" and "active," and the former are also known as "linking" or "copulative" verbs.) Static verbs stand back, politely allowing nouns and adjectives to take center stage. Dynamic verbs thunder in from the wings, announcing an event, producing a spark, adding drama to an assembled group.


Static Verbs


Static verbs themselves fall into several subgroups, starting with what I call existential verbs: all the forms of to be, whether the present (am, are, is), the past (was, were) or the other more vexing tenses (is being, had been, might have been). In Shakespeare's "Hamlet," the Prince of Demark asks, "To be, or not to be?" when pondering life-and-death questions. An aging King Lear uses both is and am when he wonders about his very identity:

"Who is it that can tell me who I am?"

Jumping ahead a few hundred years, Henry Miller echoes Lear when, in his autobiographical novel "Tropic of Cancer," he wanders in Dijon, France, reflecting upon his fate:

"Yet I am up and about, a walking ghost, a white man terrorized by the cold sanity of this slaughter-house geometry. Who am I? What am I doing here?"

Drawing inspiration from Miller, we might think of these verbs as ghostly verbs, almost invisible. They exist to call attention not to themselves, but to other words in the sentence.

Another subgroup is what I call wimp verbs (appear, seem, become). Most often, they allow a writer to hedge (on an observation, description or opinion) rather than commit to an idea: Lear appears confused. Miller seems lost.

Finally, there are the sensing verbs (feel, look, taste, smell and sound), which have dual identities: They are dynamic in some sentences and static in others. If Miller said I feel the wind through my coat, that's dynamic. But if he said I feel blue, that's static.

Static verbs establish a relationship of equals between the subject of a sentence and its complement. Think of those verbs as quiet equals signs, holding the subject and the predicate in delicate equilibrium. For example, I, in the subject, equals feel blue in the predicate.


Power Verbs


Dynamic verbs are the classic action words. They turn the subject of a sentence into a doer in some sort of drama. But there are dynamic verbs - and then there are dynamos. Verbs like has, does, goes, gets and puts are all dynamic, but they don't let us envision the action. The dynamos, by contrast, give us an instant picture of a specific movement. Why have a character go when he could gambol, shamble, lumber, lurch, sway, swagger or sashay?

Picking pointed verbs also allows us to forgo adverbs. Many of these modifiers merely prop up a limp verb anyway. Strike speaks softly and insert whispers. Erase eats hungrily in favor of devours. And whatever you do, avoid adverbs that mindlessly repeat the sense of the verb, as in circle around, merge together or mentally recall.

This sentence from "Tinkers," by Paul Harding, shows how taking time to find the right verb pays off:
"The forest had nearly wicked from me that tiny germ of heat allotted to each person ."
Wick is an evocative word that nicely gets across the essence of a more commonplace verb like sucked or drained.

Sportswriters and announcers must be masters of dynamic verbs, because they endlessly describe the same thing while trying to keep their readers and listeners riveted. We're not just talking about a player who singles, doubles or homers. We're talking about, as announcers described during the 2010 World Series, a batter who "spoils the pitch" (hits a foul ball), a first baseman who "digs it out of the dirt" (catches a bad throw) and a pitcher who "scatters three singles through six innings" (keeps the hits to a minimum).

Imagine the challenge of writers who cover races. How can you write about, say, all those horses hustling around a track in a way that makes a single one of them come alive? Here's how Laura Hillenbrand, in "Seabiscuit," described that horse's winning sprint:

"Carrying 130 pounds, 22 more than Wedding Call and 16 more than Whichcee, Seabiscuit delivered a tremendous surge. He slashed into the hole, disappeared between his two larger opponents, then burst into the lead Seabiscuit shook free and hurtled into the homestretch alone as the field fell away behind him."

Even scenes that at first blush seem quiet can bristle with life. The best descriptive writers find a way to balance nouns and verbs, inertia and action, tranquillity and turbulence. Take Jo Ann Beard, who opens the short story "Cousins" with static verbs as quiet as a lake at dawn:

"Here is a scene. Two sisters are fishing together in a flat-bottomed boat on an olive green lake ."
When the world of the lake starts to awaken, the verbs signal not just the stirring of life but crisp tension:

"A duck stands up, shakes out its feathers and peers above the still grass at the edge of the water. The skin of the lake twitches suddenly and a fish springs loose into the air, drops back down with a flat splash. Ripples move across the surface like radio waves. The sun hoists itself up and gets busy, laying a sparkling rug across the water, burning the beads of dew off the reeds, baking the tops of our mothers' heads."

Want to practice finding dynamic verbs? Go to a horse race, a baseball game or even walk-a-thon. Find someone to watch intently. Describe what you see. Or, if you're in a quiet mood, sit on a park bench, in a pew or in a boat on a lake, and then open your senses. Write what you see, hear and feel. Consider whether to let your verbs jump into the scene or stand by patiently.

Verbs can make or break your writing, so consider them carefully in every sentence you write. Do you want to sit your subject down and hold a mirror to it? Go ahead, use is. Do you want to plunge your subject into a little drama? Go dynamic. Whichever you select, give your readers language that makes them eager for the next sentence.

Next from me: Pitfalls of passive construction.
Constance Hale, a journalist based in San Francisco, is the author of "Sin and Syntax" and the forthcoming "Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch." She covers writing and the writing life at sinandsyntax.com.









MIT: Action Verbs
http://web.mit.edu/career/www/guide/actionverbs.html

Management Skills

Administered
Analyzed
Assigned
Chaired
Consolidated
Contracted
Coordinated
Delegated
Developed
Directed
Evaluated
Executed
Organized
Oversaw
Planned
Prioritized
Produced
Recommended
Reorganized
Reviewed
Scheduled
Supervised

Communication Skills

Addressed
Arbitrated
Arranged
Authored
Co-authored
Collaborated
Corresponded
Developed
Directed
Drafted
Enlisted
Formulated
Influenced
Interpreted
Lectured
Mediated
Moderated
Negotiated
Persuaded
Promoted
Proposed
Publicized
Reconciled
Recruited
Spoke
Translated
Wrote

Research Skills

Clarified
Collected
Critiqued
Diagnosed
Evaluated
Examined
Extracted
Identified
Inspected
Interpreted
Interviewed
Investigated
Organized
Reviewed
Summarized
Surveyed
Systematized

Technical Skills

Assembled
Built
Calculated
Computed
Designed
Devised
Engineered
Fabricated
Maintained
Operated
Pinpointed
Programmed
Remodeled
Repaired
Solved
Operated
Pinpointed
Programmed
Remodeled
Repaired
Solved

Teaching Skills

Adapted
Advised
Clarified
Coached
Communicated
Conducted
Coordinated
Developed
Enabled
Encouraged
Evaluated
Explained
Facilitated
Guided
Informed
Instructed
Lectured
Persuaded
Set goals
Stimulated
Taught
Trained

Financial Skills

Administered
Allocated
Analyzed
Appraised
Audited
Balanced
Budgeted
Calculated
Computed
Developed
Managed
Planned
Projected
Researched

Creative Skills

Acted
Conceptualized
Created
Customized
Designed
Developed
Directed
Established
Fashioned
Illustrated
Instituted
Integrated
Performed
Planned
Proved
Revised
Revitalized
Set up
Shaped
Streamlined
Structured

Helping Skills

Assessed
Assisted
Clarified
Coached
Counseled
Demonstrated
Diagnosed
Educated
Facilitated
Familiarized
Guided
Inspired
Motivated
Participated
Provided
Referred
Rehabilitated
Represented
Reinforced
Supported
Taught
Trained
Verified

Clerical or Detail Skills

Approved
Arranged
Catalogued
Classified
Collected
Compiled
Dispatched
Executed
Filed
Generated
Implemented
Inspected
Monitored
Operated
Ordered
Organized
Prepared
Processed
Purchased
Recorded
Retrieved
Screened
Specified
Systematized
Tabulated
Validated

Stronger Verbs for Accomplishments

Accelerated
Achieved
Attained
Completed
Conceived
Convinced
Discovered
Doubled
Effected
Eliminated
Expanded
Expedited
Founded
Improved
Increased
Initiated
Innovated
Introduced
Invented
Launched
Mastered
Originated
Overcame
Overhauled
Pioneered
Reduced
Resolved
Revitalized
Spearheaded
Strengthened
Transformed
Upgraded

From "To Boldly Go: Practical Career Advice for Scientists", by Peter S. Fiske




CV Store: Power Verbs
http://www.thecvstore.net/Power-Verbs.htm

The use of action words / power verbs, are essential in the promotion of your skills and experience. Using these words at the start of each bullet point under the details of your employment will assist the reader in noticing your key achievements.

The words you use will obviously depend upon your experience / industry so try not to just stuff your CV full of power words in the hope that this will look good. For example, a candidate applying for a managerial position will want to make use of words such as "oversaw, developed, improved and reduced", whereas someone looking for a more creative role will want to use words such as "designed, compiled and created".

Power verbs to accentuate organisational skills:

Arranged
Categorized
Collected
Compiled
Corrected
Distributed
Filed
Incorporated
Logged
Maintained
Monitored
Observed
Ordered
Organized
Prepared
Recorded
Registered
Reserved
Responded
Reviewed
Scheduled
Screened
Supplied
Updated

Power verbs used to highlight achievements:

Achieved
Built
Created
Developed
Established
Expanded
Founded
Identified
Implemented
Increased
Initiated
Instigated
Launched
Lead
Managed
Reduced
Solved
Streamlined

Other power verbs:

Administered
Advised
Analyzed
Approved
Completed
Conducted
Controlled
Coordinated
Defined
Delivered
Demonstrated
Designed
Instructed
Introduced
Maintained
Negotiated
Oversaw
Performed
Planned
Presented
Supervised
Supported





Need more hints?






    - Updated by Vince on Sat 20 Aug 2016



    1 comment:

    1. Hi there.

      I'm flattered that you like my NYT post, but it's copyrighted material and to post the entire thing like this is, well, wrong. And unprofessional!

      But please feel free to post a paragraph with a link, and definitely discourage writers from using static verbs!

      Best,

      Connie Hale

      ReplyDelete

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