Verbs and Vocabulary

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Verbs and Vocabulary

When describing action you should be very careful about your choice and placement of verbs. Verbs are action words. They are the athletes of language and should be energetic and expressive. Selecting the right verb can bring a piece to life.

As a general rule, avoid using words like 'went', 'said', 'did' and 'got'.

The time it takes to read your words should reflect what you are describing. As well as adapting the length of your sentences a deliberate choice of vocabulary can also make a big difference.

If you are describing something fast you should convey this by the length of your description. If you are describing something slow it should take the reader longer to read the description.

For example, try improving on:

1. 'He turned around very quickly' by picking a better verb...

Verbs and Vocabulary

2. 'The river was running extremely rapidly'...

Verbs and Vocabulary

Using verbs together can also create a quick pace and a sense of excitement, especially if the previous sentences have been long and slow.

For example

"The journey had gone on for hours and whilst his captors dozed in the sapping heat, Michael thought quickly and carefully about how he could escape from the clutches of a gang that would certainly kill him.

"Suddenly he turned away very quickly and opened the car door in a rush before he got out of the car that was going very fast"

How could you make the last sentence more exciting?

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Try improving on the opening passage from a short story called 'Nightmare', by N. Bowen, by using better verbs...

There were two men in black robes. One was holding an axe. I went down quickly the long, empty corridor, only my heart making a noise. I knew they were coming after me. Pressure went in my temples as the tunnel air got thicker. My fingers felt the rough edges of the tunnel, as I felt my way through the darkness. Out I fell onto a snow-strewn landscape. Where was I?

I looked up at the bright wintry stars. My fingers were numb with the cold. My breath turned to freezing. My skin burned and tingled. I went round quickly. A crying sound had come from somewhere behind me. From out of the shadows, from the tall, dark house, came a figure walking slowly towards where I lay. He was bent over. He was carrying something that shone in moonlight. I felt sick, so I got up to my feet. Then I decided to get away very fast.

Only I didn't move. As the madman went towards me I felt myself going down through space. The ground opened up under me. I fell very quickly through time and space. Heat heated my face. Everything was a black and orange rock blur. I reached the ground with a crash.

'Welcome,' said a voice."

Vocabulary means 'your choice of words'. To get a good grade it is essential that you chose your vocabulary - such as your verbs - carefully. As well as verbs, you should pay particular attention to your use of adjectives.

An adjective is a word that describes a noun.

A noun is a thing, a place or a name.

Three General Rules on using Adjectives...

Lists of adjectives can be effective if used sparingly - for instance,in a suspenseful sentence:

"Energetic, life-enhancing, fun, sociable, healthy, demanding and rewarding,your English lessons will benefit you for a lifetime!"

Rule: Example: Correction:
Don't use two adjectives that mean the same thing. Find a better adjective instead. 'The great, big house.' 'The enormous house.'
Use one adjective per noun, unless you have a good reason. 'The honey-slow, cool, relaxing river.' 'The honey-slow river.'
Don't use words that intensify or weaken the adjective. 'A very dark night-sky.' 'It was quite light.' 'A pitch-black night sky.' 'It lightened.'

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