Picture of the words boring verbs with a crosshair over it.

This is part 7 in a nine part series on showing instead of telling.

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 1

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 2

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 3

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 4

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 5

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 6

Currently reading Part 7

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 8

 

Show, don’t tell Tip #6: Eliminate boring verbs

We’re going to look at two kinds of boring verbs: “State of Being” verbs and linking verbs. Both kinds slow down or make your writing stale. Freshen your writing by eliminating the following verbs.

 

Let’s discuss each kind in a little more detail.

 

“State of Being” Verbs:

You may have had to memorize these in school (and I recommend you do; there are only 8).

They are:

  • am
  • is
  • are
  • was
  • were
  • be
  • being
  • been

They slow down your writing most often by mixing with past tense verbs to form passive voice.

For example: “The ball was thrown by the boy.”

But they also are just boring by themselves. Action verbs are much stronger replacements. Compare these two sentences:

“The boy was sad.”

“The boy sobbed.”

Substituting sobbed for was makes the second sentence stronger.

Linking (or helping) Verbs:

Linking verbs are boring because they add extra words to sentences, acting like weights that drag the sentences down. Here’s the list:

  • have
  • has
  • had
  • do
  • does
  • did
  • shall
  • will
  • should
  • would
  • may
  • might
  • must
  • can
  • could

 

Look at this sentence from this blog post:

“You may have had to memorize these in school.”

 

How many linking verbs do you see? Three: may, have, had.

 

Here’s the same sentence written without the linking verbs:

“Your teacher probably made you memorize these in school.”

OR

“You maybe memorized these in school.”

 

Try it out!

Write a short story without using ANY of the words in the two lists above. It will be tough, but it will be worth it.

 

Then read the next post about showing instead of telling.

Read More

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 1

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 2

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 3

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 4

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 5

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 6

Currently reading Part 7

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 8