Blog Grammar Rules Vivid Verbs: How to Use Them (With Examples)

Vivid Verbs: How to Use Them (With Examples)

Krystal N. Craiker

Krystal N. Craiker

Author and Freelance Writer

Published Jun 02, 2022

Vivid verbs title

Bland verbs make for mundane stories. Some might be permissible or even necessary, but too many boring verbs pull the life out of even the liveliest writing.

So, what are some ways to use more vivid verbs? Let’s discuss.

Contents:
  1. Vivid Verbs: Definition
  2. Vivid Verbs: Meaning
  3. How to Use Vivid Verbs in Sentences
  4. Full A–Z List of Vivid Verbs

Vivid Verbs: Definition

The New Oxford Dictionary defines vivid as “producing powerful feelings or strong, clear images in the mind.”

The key word is “clear.” We want to strive for clarity with our verbs.

Vivid verbs definition

Take the verb “fall” as an example. There’s nothing wrong with the word; most people know what it means.

However, it could certainly be clearer. A fall just means downward motion; it suggests nothing about intention or distance.

Say we swap “fall” with a vivid verb like “tumble.” It’s more vivid because it implies a clumsy roll, or perhaps even an accidental fall.

Or we could use “plummet,” which paints of vivid picture of someone falling from a huge distance, likely to their doom.

Or what about “descend?” That feels much more gradual and intentional, like an airplane landing.

See how much more meaning we can get from verbs? That’s what we mean by “vivid.”

Weak verbs definition

Vivid Verbs: Meaning

In creative writing, verbs are crucial. Action verbs are the best words for creating a picture in your readers’ minds.

Of course, adjectives and adverbs are great, but vivid verbs have motion attached to them.

Using vivid verbs means choosing a strong verb to paint a picture, adding clarity and specificity. Weak verbs don’t evoke the same images as vivid verbs.

How do you determine whether a verb is strong or weak?

Common verbs like walk or run are usually weak. Instead of describing how someone walks with an adjective (e.g. walks slowly), a strong verb can provide more information about the character and the scene.

Both meanders and shuffles are synonyms for walks slowly, but these vivid verbs each evoke a different mood.

Meanders denotes a lazy pace, usually with peace. Shuffles implies that the character is feeling an emotion like sadness or embarrassment.

A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.
Try it for free!
ProWritingAid

How to Use Vivid Verbs in Sentences

Let’s examine Strunk and White’s famous advice from The Elements of Style: “Omit needless words.”

This advice is especially useful for verbs, because we often use multiple words when we could use one. Take this sentence as an example:

  • The dog jumped over the obstacle.

Jumped is our verb and over is our preposition.

Although this sentence functions correctly and gives us the right information, we’re using two words where one will do. Jump is not the strongest verb, and over is a needless word.

Instead, let’s try this:

  • The dog hurdled the obstacle.

Not only have we used one word instead of two, we’ve also used a more vivid verb. Jump is generic, while hurdle implies athleticism.

How to usse vivid verbs

You can also visualize your work when you’re editing. Simply read a scene you’re working on aloud, then close your eyes and visualize it.

Having a hard time seeing it? That might be because your verbs aren’t specific enough. For example, imagine this line:

  • She threw the ball.

When you read and visualize that line, you probably see a simple throw, but nothing particularly distinct. That’s a tell-tale sign that you’re lacking vivid verbs. So, how about this?

  • She hurled the ball.

Now imagine the character getting her full weight behind the ball and having it rocket into the distance. With such a clear image, that must be a better verb!

For many of us, we don’t categorize words into types (like verbs and adjectives) as we read them. If your writing feels a little flat, you may not realize that verbs are the culprit.

Another way to visualize your verbs is by highlighting them with ProWritingAid’s Thesaurus Report. This report highlights all of the verbs in your writing so you can see which ones might need improving.

ProWritinghAid suggesting alternatives for the verb run

If you decide you need to swap out some of your words for more vivid verbs, you can find contextually relevant synonyms in the report.

Using ProWritingAid’s Thesaurus Report lets you see where all of the verbs are so you can edit and improve your verbs with ease.

Here are a few more examples of vivid verbs:

Weak: She looked at the book from the mysterious librarian, but saw nothing important.
Vivid: She scrutinized the book from the mysterious librarian, but saw nothing important.

Weak: He said he would never forgive me.
Vivid: He whispered he would never forgive me.

Weak: The soprano sang the solo with all her heart.
Vivid: The soprano belted the solo with all her heart.

Full A–Z List of Vivid Verbs

If you need some ideas for vivid verbs, check out our list of 50 powerful verbs to use in your writing.

  1. Attack
  2. Assert
  3. Bash
  4. Bolt
  5. Chortle
  6. Clutch
  7. Collide
  8. Devastate
  9. Devour
  10. Drag
  11. Elucidate
  12. Ensnare
  13. Eradicate
  14. Fling
  15. Forge
  16. Glare
  17. Grasp
  18. Grope
  19. Hover
  20. Hush
  21. Illuminate
  22. Interject
  23. Jostle
  24. Knead
  25. Knuckle
  26. Lash
  27. Lurk
  28. Meander
  29. Mosey
  30. Munch
  31. Nag
  32. Obtain
  33. Peck
  34. Plunge
  35. Prickle
  36. Quaff
  37. Quake
  38. Recoil
  39. Rush
  40. Saunter
  41. Shimmer
  42. Slump
  43. Sparkle
  44. Toddle
  45. Trudge
  46. Unveil
  47. Usher
  48. Vindicate
  49. Wrest
  50. Zap

Vivid verbs make for great writing. Use your words to paint a picture by swapping out your weaker verbs for stronger ones.


Take your writing to the next level:

20 Editing Tips From Professional Writers

20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers

Whether you are writing a novel, essay, article, or email, good writing is an essential part of communicating your ideas.

This guide contains the 20 most important writing tips and techniques from a wide range of professional writers.

Subscribe for writing hacks, special offers and free stuff
We will not share your details
ProWritingAid
Have you tried  ProWritingAid  yet? What are you waiting for? It's the best tool for making sure your copy is strong, clear, and error-free!
Krystal N. Craiker

Krystal N. Craiker

Author and Freelance Writer

Krystal N. Craiker is an author and freelance writer. She is the author of the Scholars of Elandria fantasy series. When she isn't writing, you can find her playing board games and volunteering. Krystal lives in Texas with her husband and two adorable dogs. Visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

Log in
to your account to leave a comment or fill in your details below to comment as a guest.

Great Writing, Made Easier.

A grammar checker, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.

Try it for free today.

Sign up