Words are powerful. They can move you to tears, evoke absolute joy, or comfort someone in time of need. As writers, we are always searching for the right words to express what we want to say. Here are a few tips to help make your words more powerful.
- Use short words. Short words are more powerful and less pretentious than longer words. Rape is more powerful than sexual assault. Stop is stronger than discontinue.
- Use dense words. Use fewer words to express the same idea. Instead of once a month, say monthly. Something new is novel. People they didn’t know are strangers.
- Use familiar words. A word is familiar of if came easily to you. A word your reader doesn’t recognize has no power. Don’t call it a mandible. Use the more familiar word, jaw. Don’t write sclerous if you can write hardened. And if you used the word virescent, go back and say it’s turning green.
- Use active verbs. Your writing will have more power if you change the words is, was, and will be to verbs of action and motion. Consider the following: A grandfather clock was in one corner, and three books were on top of it. Here’s a better way to write that. A grandfather clock towered in one corner, and three books lay on top of it.
- Use strong verbs. Sharpen a word’s meaning by being precise. Turn look into stare, gaze, peer, peek, or gawk. Turn throw into toss, flip, or hurl.
- Use specific nouns. Before you write a noun that is modified by one or more adjectives, ask yourself if there is noun that can convey the same information. Don’t write about a black dog. Write about a Doberman instead. Do you want a large house or a mansion? Cruel treatment will make a bigger impression as savagery or brutality.
- Use active voice. Passive voice: Dutch drawings and prints are what this book is about. Active voice: This book is about Dutch drawings and prints. Can you hear the difference?
- Say things in a positive way. Instead of The safe was not closed, say The safe was open. Don’t use this: This insurance will not cost the employees any money. Use this instead: This insurance is free to employees.
- Be specific. Help the reader see what you are describing. Picture a box. Now, picture a black box. Now, picture a black box with shiny silver hinges. You can see the box more clearly by adding a few specific details.