Using Adverbs in Writing: Strong Verbs

An adverb can add emphasis or value to writing, but if you aren’t careful, it can make your work look week.


Compare these sentences:

  • Jill worked on her truck.
  • Jill angrily worked on her truck.

The adverb “angrily” helps us understand how Jill was feeling. Lazy writers use adverbs to modify weak adverbs instead of looking for a stronger verb. Let’s look at some examples:

Weak Verb:

Weak Verb + Adverb:

Strong Verb:

Jill jumped on the pavement.

Jill jumped quickly on the pavement.

Jill sprained on the pavement.

Weak Verb:

Weak Verb + Adverb:

Strong Verb:

Chris talked to his son.

Chris talked rudely to his son.

Chris yelled at his son.

Weak Verb:

Weak Verb + Adverb:

Strong Verb:

Joann looked at Dawn.

Joann looked bitterly at Dawn.

Joann glared at Dawn.

In these examples, the strong verb presents a clearer picture. It invites the audience into what the character is feeling. Stronger verbs make sense.

All adverbs need not be removed, sometimes the story needs them to achieve what the author is trying to get across.

Question to ask yourself:

Is there a stronger verb I can use?

Brain Storm:

If finding a stronger verb is a chore, write the verb into a thesaurus online and look at the different variations.. Or, write the verb by itself and write as many variations as you can for the word and see if it will work in your sentence.

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