Strong Verbs List For Essays About Love

The academic community can be conservative when it comes to writing styles, but your writing shouldn’t be so boring that people lose interest midway through the first paragraph! Given that competition is at an all-time high for academics looking to publish their papers, we know you must be anxious about what you can do to improve your publishing odds. To be sure, your research must be sound.  But it also must be clearly explained. So, how do you go about achieving the latter?

Below are a few ways to breathe life into your writing.

1. Analyze vocabulary with word clouds

Have you heard of the website, Wordle? It’s a word-cloud generation site, and if you click on “Create your own,” copy and paste your draft manuscript into the text box that appears, you may quickly discover how repetitive your writing is!

Seeing a visual word cloud of your work might also help you assess the key themes and points readers will glean from your paper. If the Wordle result displays words you hadn’t intended to emphasize, then it’s a sign you should revise your paper to make sure readers will focus on the right information. *Your browser will need access to Java to run the Wordle applet.

As an example, below is a Wordle of our recent article entitled, “How to Choose the Best title for Your Journal Manuscript.” You can see how frequently certain terms appear in that post, based on the font size of the text. The key words, “titles,” “journal,” “research,” and “papers,” were all the intended focus of our blog post.

2. Study language patterns of similarly published works

Study the language pattern found in the most downloaded and cited articles published by your target journal. Understanding the journal’s editorial preferences will help you write in a style that appeals to the publication’s readership.

Another way to analyze the language of a target journal’s papers is to use Wordle (see above). If you copy and paste the text of an article related to your research topic into the applet, you can discover the common phrases and terms the paper’s authors used.

For example, if you were writing a paper on links between smoking and cancer, you might look for a recent review on the topic, preferably published by your target journal. Copy and paste the text into Wordle and examine the key phrases to see if you’ve included similar wording in your own draft. The Wordle result might look like the following, based on the example linked above.

3. Use more active and precise verbs

Have you heard of synonyms? Of course you have, but have you looked beyond single word replacements and rephrased entire clauses with stronger, more vivid ones? You’ll find this task is easier to do if you use the active voice more often than the passive voice. Even if you keep your original sentence structure, you can eliminate weak verbs like “be” from your drafts and choose more vivid and precise actions verbs. As always, however, be careful about using a thesaurus to identify synonyms. Make sure the substitutes fit the context in which you need a more interesting or “perfect” word.

To help you build a strong arsenal of commonly used phrases in academic papers, we’ve compiled a list of synonyms you might want to consider when drafting or revising your research paper. While we do not suggest that the phrases in the “Original Word/Phrase” column should be completely avoided, we do recommend interspersing these with the more dynamic terms found under “Recommended Substitutes.”

 

A. Describing the scope of a current project or prior research

PurposeOriginal Word/PhraseRecommended Substitute
To express the purpose of a paper or research
  • This paper/ study/ investigation…
This paper + [use the verb that originally followed "aims to"] or This paper + (any other verb listed above as a substitute for “explain”) + who/what/when/where/how X. For example:
  • “This paper applies X to Y,” instead of, “This paper aims to apply X to Y.”
  • “This paper explores how lower sun exposure impacts moods,” instead of, “This paper aims to address the impact of lower sun exposure on moods.”
To introduce the topic of a project or paper
  • The paper/ study/ article/ work…
  • Prior research/ investigations…
  • surveys
  • questions
  • highlights
  • outlines
  • features
  • investigates
To describe the analytical scope of a paper or study
  • The paper/ study/ article/ work…
  • Prior research/ investigations…
  • considers
  • analyzes
  • explains
  • evaluates
  • interprets
  • clarifies
  • identifies
  • delves into
  • advances
  • appraises
  • defines
  • dissects
  • probes
  • tests
  • explores

*Adjectives to describe degree can include: briefly, thoroughly, adequately, sufficiently, inadequately, insufficiently, only partially, partially, etc.

To preview other sections of a paper
  • covers
  • deals with
  • talks about
  • outlines
  • highlights
  • sketches
  • assesses
  • contemplates

[any of the verbs suggested as replacements for “explain,” “analyze,” and “consider” above]

 

B. Outlining a topic’s background

PurposeOriginal Word/PhraseRecommended Substitute
To discuss the historical significance of a topic
  • Subject/ Mechanism…
  • plays an important in [nominalization]
  • plays a vital role in [nominalization]
Topic significantly/considerably +
  • influences
  • controls
  • regulates
  • directs
  • inhibits
  • constrains
  • governs

+ who/what/when/where/how…

 

*In other words, take the nominalized verb and make it the main verb of the sentence.

To describe the historical popularity of a topic
  • …is widely accepted as…
  • …is widely used as…

 

  • Widely accepted, … [to eliminate the weak be verb]
  • The preferred…
  • Commonly/Frequently implemented,… [to eliminate the weak be verb]
  • The prevailing method for…
To describe the recent focus on a topic
  • Much attention has been drawn to
  • …has gained much importance in recent years
  • Discussions regarding X have dominated research in recent years.
  • …has appealed to…
  • …has propelled to the forefront in investigations of Y.
  • … has dramatically/significantly shaped queries on X in recent years.
  • …has critically influenced academic dialogue on Y.
To identify the current majority opinion about a topic
  • The consensus has been that…
  • Prior research generally confirms that…
  • Several studies agree that…
  • Prior research substantiates the belief that…
To discuss the findings of existing literature
  • indicate
  • have documented
  • have demonstrated
  • have shown that
  • contend
  • purport
  • suggest
  • proffer
  • have proven that
  • evidence
To express the breadth of our current knowledge-base, including gaps
  • Much is known about…
  • But, little is known about…
  • The academic community has extensively explored X…
  • Prior research has thoroughly investigated….
  • However, little research has been conducted to show…
  • However, prior studies have failed to evaluate/ identify / (any other word suggested to replace “analyze” above)
To segue into expressing your research question
  • Several theories have been proposed to explain…
  • To solve this problem, many researchers have tried several methods
  • Recent/Previous studies have promoted…
  • Prior investigations have implemented/ queried diverse approaches to…
  • A number of authors have posited…

 

C. Describing the analytical elements of a paper

PurposeOriginal Word/PhraseRecommended Substitute
To express agreement between one finding and another
  • This paper/ study/ investigation
  • substantiates
  • confirms
  • corroborates
  • underlines
To present contradictory findings
  • This paper/ study/ investigation
  • challenges
  • disputes
  • rebuts
  • refutes
  • disproves
  • debunks
  • invalidates
  • rejects
  • questions
To discuss limitations of a study
  • The limitations of this paper include:
  • These investigations, however, disregards…
  • This method/ approach fails to…
  • This study only…
  • …falls short of addressing/ identifying / illustrating…
  • A drawback/disadvantage of this framework is…
  • This framework, however, solely pertains to…

 

D. Discussing results

PurposeOriginal Word/PhraseRecommended Substitute
To draw inferences from results
  • The data…
  • These findings…
  • extrapolate
  • deduce
  • surmise
  • approximate
  • derive
  • extract
  • evidence
To describe observations
  • [Observed event or result]…
  • manifested
  • surfaced
  • materialized
  • yielded
  • generated
  • perceived
  • detected

 

E. Discussing methods

PurposeOriginal Word/PhraseRecommended Substitute
To discuss methods
  • This study…
  • X method…
  • applied
  • administered
  • employed
  • diffused
  • disseminated
  • relayed
To describe simulations
  • was created to…
  • was used to…
  • was performed to…
This study/ research…
  • simulated
  • replicated
  • imitated

+

“X environment/ condition to..”

+

[any of the verbs suggested as replacements for “analyze” above]

 

F. Explaining the impact of new research

PurposeOriginal Word/PhraseRecommended Substitute
To explain the impact of a paper’s findings
  • This paper/ study/ investigation
  • illustrates
  • proves
  • evidences
  • strengthens (the position that)
To highlight a paper’s conclusion
  • This paper/ study/ investigation
  • attributes
  • illustrates
  • advances (the idea that)
To explain how research contributes to the existing knowledge-base
  • This paper/ study/ investigation
  • ushers in
  • proffers
  • conveys
  • promotes
  • advocates
  • introduces
  • broach (issue)
  • reveals
  • unveils
  • exposes
  • unearths

Additional writing resources

For additional information on how to tighten your sentences (e.g., eliminate wordiness and use active voice to greater effect), check out the following articles:

How to Strengthen Your Writing Style

Avoid Fillers If You Want to Write Powerful Sentences

How to Improve Your Writing: Eliminate Prepositions

How to Improve Your Writing: Avoid Nominalizations

Articles about how to draft specific parts of a research paper can be found here.

Additional grammar tips can be found here.

Image courtesy saadandalib on Flickr

Today’s post is written by regular contributor Susan Bearman.

Choosing the right words can make the difference between flat, tedious writing and writing that sings a clear, sweet song.

Adjectives and adverbs are fine in moderation, but strong verbs will propel your writing forward and engage your reader in a sensory adventure.

Flowery or distracting language can be just as risky, taking the reader right out of the story. When you feel an overwhelming need to spice up your writing with more adjectives or adverbs, take a closer look at your verbs.

Show, Don’t Tell

Every writer knows this mantra, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what that means. The verb “to be” and all its iterations often takes a writer down the “telling” path. Here’s a blatant example:

“The mountain was big.”—How big? Bigger than a car? A house?

I’m telling you something here about a mountain, but not showing you anything at all. Here’s how a couple of strong verbs can show how big that mountain really is:

“Mt. Rainier thrusts its stony, snow-capped peak more than 14,000 feet into the brilliant blue skies of western Washington, where it reigns as the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.”

One more:

“The movie was great.”—Really? You wouldn’t know it from that sentence. How about:

“The new indie film struck a chord with the audience, who gasped in horror over the grisly murder, but laughed uproariously when the murderer slipped on a bloody banana peel.”

But wait, there’s as an adverb in that sentence: uproariously. True, but I believe this is one of those instances when replacing the verb “to laugh” with a synonym would only distract the reader, rather than enhance the sentence. See what you think.

“The new indie film struck a chord with the audience, who gasped in horror over the grisly murder, but …

  • guffawed when the murderer slipped on a bloody banana peel.”
  • … snickered when the murderer slipped on a bloody banana peel.”
  • tittered when the murderer slipped on a bloody banana peel.”

In each of these examples, I found the replacement verb distracting, so I stuck with my original verb: “to laugh”. The problem was that just “laughing” didn’t seem to provide enough of a contrast to gasping in horror, so I added “uproariously” to heighten the difference.

Adverbs and adjectives are not bad in and of themselves. Words are a writer’s palette and they come in all colors, but writers should choose carefully, not rely on the default settings.

“To write” is a verb—an action word—so act with intention when you write.

Context Matters

Finding the right word is often dependent on context. A flabby verb will work almost anywhere, but a strong verb fits best within a particular context. For example, let’s look at two sentences using the common (flabby) verb “went”:

  • The racehorse went around the track three times.
  • The airplane went slowly across the tarmac.

While the word “went” works just as well (or poorly) in each of these sentences, stronger, more precise verbs will bring them to life and paint completely different pictures.

  • The racehorse trotted around the track three times.
  • The racehorse galloped around the track three times.
  • The racehorse limped around the track three times.

“Trotted”, “galloped”, and “limped” are all fine synonyms for “went” in this sentence, and each one delivers a different image of our horse. None of these verbs, however, can replace “went” in our second sentence, but a more precise verb choice, such as “inched” or “rolled”, will give us a better picture of how that plane moved on the tarmac.

I recently gave this same exercise to some students, asking them to replace the word “went” in the following 10 sentences. In parentheses, I have shown their suggestions. We then voted on the best changes.

Which verb would you have chosen, or do you have an even better suggestion?

  1. The jockey nearly flew off his saddle as the horse went (raced, ran, bolted, galloped) for the finish line.
  2. The ghost faded before their eyes as he went (floated, disappeared, evaporated, glided) through the closed door.
  3. The old jalopy went (zigzagged, lumbered, hiccoughed, bumbled) down the street, belching little clouds of black smoke in its wake.
  4. Even with a fever of 104°, the dedicated nurse  went (dragged herself, made it, schlepped, trudged) to the hospital.
  5. “You’re going to miss my exit!” shouted the passenger, as the taxi driver made a hard right and went (careened, rolled, skidded, screeched) onto the ramp.
  6. The passengers heaved a collective sigh of relief as the airplane went (lifted, rose, glided, elevated) silently up into the sky.
  7. After months of suffering, the cancer patient went (passed away, perished, died, expired) quietly in his sleep.
  8. While the grownups around him carefully avoided the puddles, the little boy went (jumped, skipped, splashed, pranced) right through them.
  9. “I’m not tired and I don’t want to go to bed!” Tommy protested as he went (stomped, scrambled, trudged, stumbled) up the stairs.
  10. Batman went (dove, stormed, swung, soared) into action, taking the bad guys by surprise.

One of my favorite classroom exercises is to bring in a poster board titled “Bad Words”, with the list of offending words draped in a piece of black tissue paper. I tell the class to think (not say) the worst word they can think of. This always elicits lots of giggling and then surprise when I reveal my list of “bad words”:

bad
nice
fun
awesome
cool
interesting
was
be
went
good
unique
very
some
am
is
were
been
so

But, as George Carlin once noted, there aren’t really any bad words. There are only poor choices. In any given context, a word can be imprecise, flabby, flowery, boring, or perfect. It’s up to you, the writer, to choose the right ones.

Filed Under: Editing

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