The Power of Nouns and Verbs

verb-picIf you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve heard me talk about the evils of adjectives and adverbs. Without rehashing previous posts, I’ll simply remind you that adjectives and adverbs usually indicate weak nouns and verbs. And while several writing instructors (myself included) will tell you to go back through your manuscript and find adjectives and adverbs for removal, few actually tell you to be proactive in your writing.

Here’s an idea you may like: Gather a list of strong nouns and verbs. Keep it in a file. The more specific, the better. Where do you find these nouns and verbs? Everywhere. Look through a cookbook and grab a couple very specific nouns (nutmeg, summer squash, lemon juice). While you’re there, grab a few verbs (emulsify, tenderize, season).

Turn on the television and watch the news. Listen to talk radio. Eavesdrop while you’re in the airport, the bus station, at school.

Have this list open while you’re writing. Make it your goal to include one of these words somewhere in your scene. The specificity of it will make the scene more visceral (hair the color of nutmeg, skin the complexion of melted butter, their relationship emulsified over the course of the following weeks, etc.).

The exercise should stretch you as a writer, which will produce stronger writing.

What are some other specific nouns and verbs that you can think of? How might they be used in similes and metaphors to strengthen your writing?

9 Comments on The Power of Nouns and Verbs

  1. I have had a great deal of difficulty with dealing with adverbs. I can usually identify adjectives, but sometimes they too escape me. I tried the exercise before, and it briefly helped. Hopefully I can use this information in the blog to my advantage this time. I wrote down the exercise and examples to attempt the understanding processes of adverbs and adjectives again.

  2. DeZerae Fraijo | January 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Reply

    I feel that I need a lot of help with this one.
    I tend to use a lot of adjectives, but I do realize that it grows very dull after some time.
    I have a difficulty with finding more specific nouns and verbs due to the fact that I really never bothered to actually look.
    Though, I have had times that I would look up some word’s synonyms in order to not be too redundant with what I have to say, but it doesn’t always work in my favor.
    I believe that a list of stong nouns and verbs is just what I need to stop with all this adjective rubbish.

  3. janet anderson | January 23, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Reply

    I have MANY troubles with adjectives i have no clue why? but i think when i write i use the same adjectives more than i should it’s really hard to come up with new verbs, nouns…etc at times i just put whatever just to add more to my writing when in general its horrible and no one can understand it but over all i think if i take your advice i might come up with new ones and my writing will improve and i will see more results. but thanks for the great writers advice. hopefully it works thanks again

  4. Summer Connell | January 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Reply

    Sometimes I put too many adjectives and sometimes I don’t put any. Just like the verbs. I don’t know why I do this but for reason I get frustrated when I have to think of adjectives and when I can’t find any words to describe then I usually don’t put any and it makes the sentence sound very boring. I also have trouble finding certain verbs in a sentence and making sure that it’s a verb. Going through a lot of letters and watching tv, I found that there is a lot of use of adjectives, nouns, and verbs. Hearing this I realize that sentences would be very pointless and boring without these important grammar.

  5. Adjectives and adverbs can make a literary work too long and tedious to hold the attention of a reader. Using powerful, vivid nouns can be much more effective in illustrating your thoughts.

  6. JessicaRae Padilla | January 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Reply

    When I write something the first time it may not be as good of describing or when I do its not as strong as I would want it to be. but after writing I do go back and think of more stronger words when describing. Also I feel when I go back and change these words to more descriptive I can really get my thoughts across and what I’m really trying to say.

  7. Often times when i find myself writing i think i do a good job at the time. Then when i go back and edit something doesnt seem rite, and its that i dont use good enough words to describe something or a scene. But after doing that alot my vocabulary has increased greatly. As of right now i have excellent vocanulary and a good use of words. Sometimes i think i try to hard with some of the words i use but it seems to fit so i leave them. There are so many different words out there to describe something and i use the est words i know but i need to find better words if i can. So how can i do this?

  8. I have been guilty to using adverbs and adjectives too often to try and make my story seem that it had more detail. This post should me the true beauty of the noun and how much more “oomf” that it can give your story than a adverb and adjective could in any way.

  9. dina rodriguez | April 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Reply

    Ooohhhhh your killing me Mr. Gansky I love adjectives and adverbs! I use them all the time ,but i think I could try and use less. When my English teacher had told me to use less of them it was really hard. I think that they can add more spice to your writing because … sadly.. I don’t really have a very big vocabulary. I guess that’s just another thing i can work on, huh?

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