Synonyms for Power Verbs
by Deb Brammer
Power verbs create strong writing. If you’ve read my article “Strong Words” under “Basic Principles of Writing for Publication #2” you know what power verbs are. They are strong, specific verbs that don’t need adverbs to explain them.
After you’ve written an article, short story, or chapter you need to go back and check the verbs. Can you make them stronger? You want familiar verbs, not obscure ones, but you want them to paint a picture. That kind of artistry demands specific verbs.
A thesaurus is a good tool for finding synonyms. I have several thesauri (as in more than one thesaurus. Isn’t English fun?) Searching for the right power verb can drive me to all of my thesauri and dictionaries, and still leave me dissatisfied. Stories constantly need good synonyms for commonly used words like walk, run, said, and think.
I’m going to share some of my synonym lists with you. These are my favorite synonyms. Be sure to collect and add your own.
I will give you my “say” synonyms with this warning: The best dialog tag is often the one that is missing. “Said” is often the best dialog tag because it becomes invisible to the reader. Check my article about dialog tags for more on this subject. But synonyms for said can be helpful when they describe the way something is said.
I will give all of these in present tense, but of course you will need to change them to past tense if writing in the past tense.
depart dance drag
hike hop hurtle hobble
leave loiter linger leap lunge
pace proceed parade
step stride stroll saunter sneak start slow skip slink slither shuffle stamp slip stagger sway strut swagger swerve swing straggle stray stumble stalk sweep
tramp trail track trace trip trudge trek
withdraw wander whirl
bolt beat it
hurry hasten hightail hotfoot
move proceed pursue
speed scamper streak spring shoot scoot scurry sprint split scram skedaddle
tear take off
Stagger—sway reel totter waver falter trip stumble
Sneak—slink slither glide creep slip
Saunter—amble loiter linger ramble roam stroll straggle wander
Follow—trail track trace pursue chase
Leave—vamoose take off skedaddle scram split beat it withdraw depart go hightail hotfoot
Scamper—bounce caper dance hop skip scoot scurry
consider conceive contemplate cogitate
recollect remember recall reflect regard
add ask argue answer agree announce apologize admit assure
began breath brag babble blab beg boast bellow
chat cheer claim comfort comment complain correct cry call chant command
declare demand deny disagree decide
echo encourage exaggerate explode exclaim explain
growl groan grumble gossip guess
mutter mouth mumble
observe order object
point out pray promise
refuse reply recite remark remind repeat reassure report roar
sang scold scream shout shriek snap snarl sniffle sob sputter squeak stammer stutter swear suggest
wail whine warn whisper want to know whoop
See or Look
gaze glance glare glower glimpse gawk gander
perceive peek peep probe
search sight scrutinize survey spot spy scan skim stare
Make similar lists of words you often use. It may take time now, but it will save you time when your are actually writing. In one of my books one of the characters often threw things. It was a habit of his, a character tag. I’ll end this article with synonyms for throw that I used in that book.
Throw—cast fling hurl launch let fly pitch propel toss send