Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Verb Choice and Powerful Prose

It was once pointed out to me that good choice of verbs can inject power into prose. The example given was the following sentence:

"He/she entered the room."

But 'entered' gives no clue as to the manner in which he or she did the deed. "Can you think," I was asked, "of other verbs that could be used in its place?" After a few moments of head scratching, I offered:

"He ran into the room"
"He bounded into the room"
"He stole into the room"

"Good start," my instructor said. "Now, spend the next 10 minutes writing down other words that could go into that sentence."

No way! I'll have run out after one minute, let alone ten. I tried it anyway. And to my surprise, I found there was almost no end to the words that I could fit into that one, deceptively simple sentence.

Since then, I have often used this as a short exercise in writing classes and have got used to the kind of words that people come up with. Even so, every so often someone comes up with something new. In my class last Monday evening for example, someone suggested: "He teleported into the room."

Great fun.

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