The Power of Verbs

Power of Verbs

Verbs are the engines that power your sentences.

Here’s an exercise that will help you learn the power of verbs.

See if you can make the following paragraph more interesting by changing the verbs. Challenge yourself to show this narrator either speeding through her day or dragging through it by the verbs you choose. If you like, post your revision in the comments below.

I got up this morning: I got dressed I got coffee and a bagel when I got gas. I got the news on the radio, and I got the mail on the way down the hall to the office. I got through my email before my ten o’clock meeting, but I got a phone call from a client so I got to the meeting late.

After the meeting I got through the HR about my health benefits, because I got a bill for my last doctor’s visit that didn’t get covered by my insurance and should have. I got a liverwurst sandwich at the deli across the street and I got red licorice at the candy store next door. I got a lot done between one and three because I got smart and turned my email and phone off. But my boss got mad because she couldn’t get through. When I told her all I got done, she got thoughtful. I got to go out to the bakery with her and got a coffee and an éclair and got a chance to tell her about all the ways I get interrupted at work and all the ways we could get more done. She got it and thanked me. I got back to my desk and got some more done before I got back in my car. Even with traffic, I got to my yoga class in time and got home feeling like I’d had a good day.

Give it a try – then show off your work and any comments about what you learned.

Always wishing you the exact word to express precisely what it is you want to say, ~Deborah.

40 thoughts on “The Power of Verbs

  1. fun exercise. Called for a little further tweaking after you change a verb.

    I bolted out of bed this morning: I threw on clothes I grabbed coffee and a bagel when I stopped for gas. I distractedly listened to the news on the radio, and I snatched up the mail on the way down the hall to the office. I bulldozed through my email before my ten o’clock meeting, but I was detained by a phone call from a client so I showed up at the meeting late.
    After the meeting I went to HR to discuss my health benefits, because I received a bill for my last doctor’s visit that allegedly wasn’t covered by my insurance and should have been. I downed a liverwurst sandwich at the deli across the street and I bought some red licorice at the candy store next door. I knocked off a lot of work between one and three because I had an ahha moment and turned off my email and phone. But my boss was irked because she couldn’t reach me. When I told her all I‘d accomplished, she calmed down. I went to the bakery with her and had coffee and an éclair and we finally talked about all the ways I am interrupted at work and all the ways we could be more productive. She understood and thanked me. I returned to my desk and plowed through some more before I rushed off to get in my car. Even with traffic, I made it to my yoga class in time and arrived home feeling like I’d had a good day.

    • You’re absolutely correct about having to change more than one word; revision is like that!
      I especially like “bulldozed” and “plowed” – gave me the sense that the narrator had the strength and stamina of a football player. And “irked” – conveys a sense of irritation that suits.

  2. This is a great idea, I loved doing it (on a dry writing day too). Incredible how versatile one little verb can be. I decided to go a highfalutin way…

    I arose this morrow and adorned my form with the latest fashions. I purchased coffee and a bagel while I sucked gas from the metal box, while listening the news on the radio. I acquired the mail on the way down the hall to the office. I stumbled through my email before my ten o’clock meeting, but then was pestered from my duties by a phone call from a client so I arrived to the meeting late and flustered.
    After the meeting I chased and harassed HR about my health benefits, because I was hounded by a bill for my last doctor’s visit that was left unpaid and unacknowledged by my insurance, a travesty. I acquired a liverwurst sandwich at the deli across the street and accompanied this with red licorice at the candy store next door. I achieved much between one and three because I switched on the smarts and turned my email and phone off. But my boss raged furious because she couldn’t get through. When I told her all my accomplishments, she became thoughtful. I wandered out to the bakery with her and procured a coffee and an éclair and took the chance to tell her about all the ways I am constantly interrupted at work and all the ways we could soar like eagles without the tick-tick-tick of distraction. She understood my position and thanked me most sincerely. I sauntered back to my desk and knocked out some more tasks before I climbed back in my car. Even with traffic, I made it to my yoga class in good time and landed back at home feeling like I’d had reached the very heights of supremacy.

  3. My feeble attempt.

    After getting dressed, gulping down a coffee and almost choking on a bagel, I jumped in the car. I realized I was almost out of gas, so stopped to fill up. Zigzagging through heavy traffic, I caught the news on the radio. I picked up the mail on the way down the hall to the office and skimmed my numerous emails before my ten o’clock meeting, but a phone call from a client still made me late for my meeting.

    When the meeting was over, I contacted HR about my health benefits because I received a bill for my last doctor’s visit that didn’t get covered by my insurance and should have. I picked up a liverwurst sandwich at the deli across the street and treated myself to red liquorice at the candy store next door. Between one and three, I accomplished a lot by turning my email and phone off. My boss was angry because she couldn’t get through but when I told her everything I completed, she calmed down and suggested we walk to the bakery and share coffee and éclairs. It was a great opportunity to tell her about how often I get interrupted at work and suggest ways we could get more done. She understood and thanked me. I returned to my desk and finished a few more tasks before leaving in my car. Even with traffic, I arrived at my yoga class in time. Once I arrived home, I felt like I’d had a good day.

  4. Thought this was fun to do. Love these prompts..

    Forcing myself out bed this morning, I had just enough energy to wash, change then made myself some coffee which I had with a bagel. On my way to work I stopped at the petrol station for some petrol and listened to the news on the radio.

    As I walked to my office, I collected the mail and quickly managed to check my emails before my ten o’clock meeting. Just before I left, I took a call from a client making me late for the meeting.

    • “Forcing” says a lot about the narrator: not a morning person! Wondering if this narrator nibbled or chewed or swallowed the bagel with than coffee? “Had” is a bit like “got” and the verbs of eating say so much more.
      Thanks for this submission.

  5. Thank you for this reminder about clear concise sentences. Oh how I too love these prompts. I know I would get rid of all the ‘gots’ (not sure if its right but here’s an idea.) I forced myself out of bed this morning. I had enough energy to wash, change, and make coffee which I had with a bagel. I stopped at the petrol station on the way to work, bought petrol, and listened to the radio news. I walked to my office, collected the mail on the way, and checked my emails before my ten o’clock meeting. The call I took from a client before I left made me late for the meeting.) .

    • Hi Faye, Thanks for trying this exercise. You start with “force,” which says a lot about the narrator. Please see note to plaintain1 above about eating the bagel after “brewing” coffee. What about “pumped petrol”
      …You get the idea. All best.

    • Thanks for the response. I will definitely want to do more of these. I don’t know what it is about me and the ‘had’. I notice through my writing (trying to write a memoir) there are loads of ‘hads’ then using the word ‘force’, yes I hear you but if it is a struggle to get out of bed in the morning?

    • Yes, it’s easy to go from one extreme to another! As always, a fundamental of good writing is authorial control.

  6. Pingback: Power of Verb – Thiyagarajan

  7. Changing the verbs made me change the voice.

    My alarm woke me as usual, I droned through the morning routine, shower, hair, dressing. I grabbed coffee and a bagel after I pumped gas. The radio had the usual music, news and bad jokes.
    The mailroom is on the way to my desk, I collected what was there for me. My inbox had a load of new e-mails, don’t my co-workers sleep? Scanned them all, read the most important, watching the clock since there was a meeting at ten. The phone rang, clients come first, so I got a nice glare from Steve while slipping late into the meeting.
    Late in the morning I finally connected with HR about my health benefits. I thought I was covered for that last doctor visit; his bill sure didn’t look like it.
    Lunch wasn’t my usual. At the deli, suddenly I wanted the liverwurst, hadn’t had some in forever. On impulse, I picked up some red licorice from the candy store next door to share with my cube-mates.
    I followed the advice of an article I read last weekend and silenced my email and phone in the early afternoon. That was good, but not perfect, my boss couldn’t reach me. I showed her all I got done and told her why. She asked for a link to the article.
    We decide to go into more detail and ducked out to the bakery on the next block. Over coffee and an éclair we talked about all the ways we get interrupted, how we could get more done. She said it was a good conversation, it sounds like she feels the same issues. Back at my desk to push another boulder or two up the hill, I made some progress before hopping back in my car. Even with traffic, I was in yoga on time for once.
    At home, dinner in the microwave and wine in a glass, I though today felt like a good day.

  8. You’ve created a definite character with this revision – one whose voice I’d listen to narrate a longer story. You did this both by improving verbs and by changing emphasis: For instance, making “Over coffee and an eclair . . .” a dependent phrase takes the emphasis off eating and drinking and puts it on the conversation. You could even drop the “get interrupted ” to “all the ways we’re interrupted at work.”
    Well done!

  9. Deborah, I can’t tell you how good it felt to read the phrase, “one whose voice I’d listen to narrate a longer story.” At this moment, your words especially meaningful to me because I’m currently pitching my first novel manuscript to agents after years of writing arcane technical reports for my day job.

    • I’m so glad my words gave you a boost, and I’m thrilled to hear that you’re shopping a novel! I hope you find the agent of your dreams – and that you can keep in mind that it’s a highly subjective process – so not to take any passes personally! Best of luck, Deborah.

    • What you’re experiencing is the beauty of “hive mind” – learning from others. It’s one of the great things about the internet. You can also find on-line grammar lessons. And used book sales are a great source of grammar books (remember them?!). And if self-study becomes too lonely, you could always find a class. Best wishes.

      • I had never heard the term “hive mind” before, it’s very apt! We say collaborative learning or group based learning. I’ve studied some free courses online. Definitely some of the advantages of the internet!

  10. Deborah, my second ever attempt to write from a 3rd party perspective…

    Peadar knew he was blessed, another morning dawned and he was still able to get himself up. He got dressed, as his coffee percolated, disappointed though that he couldn’t stomach a bagel after last night’s splurge on take-away food. The beep from the dashboard broke through the news headlines and reminded him to stop at Clancy’s for diesel. Peadar stopped to chat as he collected his mail. It always brightened his morning to hear Rose Marie singing, as she sorted the post. He scanned quickly through his email conscious of his required attendance at yet another paper-pushing meeting. He was glad when a phone call from a client delayed him and he breezed into the meeting, no longer so hung up on being late.

    His next priority, following the meeting was extracting from HR information on his health benefits. Bills were becoming more frequent now as his illness advanced. The last thing he needed was a doctor’s visit that didn’t get covered by his lousy insurance. A strange craving drove him towards a liverwurst sandwich at the deli across the street. Liverwurst was not part of his vocabulary; must be the new meds they’d started him on! Like a child he decided to follow it up with red licorice at the candy store!

    Going off-line between one and three, was a smart move, enabling him to focus his efforts. He wasn’t at all perturbed when big boss got mad because she couldn’t get through. Instead, he convinced her to stroll with him to the bakery for coffee and an éclair whilst telling her all he had learned about maximising productivity; these insights all gained from his new perspective on life. To give her credit, he had to admit her relational listening skills were up there with the best!

    Renewed motivation saw Peadar power through his work and he was rewarded by just missing rush hour traffic. Yoga class was new on his to-do-list but with Rose Marie from the post room also part of the class he knew he’d arrive home feeling like it had been a good day even if his recent diagnosis meant days were limited.

  11. I didn’t realise there was a second part to this exercise but here is my take on it.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    It was just after the meeting I managed to speak to HR regarding my health benefits. I was pretty concerned that after seeing my GP, I received an invoice which should have been forwarded to my health insurers. I was relieved when they told me it was not a problem and there was no need to worry. I then popped over to the deli for a liverwurst sandwich and went to the sweet shop next door to treat myself to my favourite sweet, a red liquorice stick.

    There were things to do and I had just three hours in which to do them. The first was to log out of my email account and place my mobile on silence in hope that I would complete my tasks uninterrupted but that was not to be. Some moments later, my boss charged into my room, complaining of how she was trying to contact me. She was annoyed and agitated. This was not the time to defend myself I thought, so I swiftly offered her my apologies and she accepted.

    We went to a nearby coffee shop and had ourselves coffee and chocolate éclairs. As she delved into the scrumptious cake her mood was calm, giving me the opportunity to tell her about the constant interruptions I experience in the office, leaving me with little time to concentrate on my work. She appreciated my frank approach and said she would certainly look into it.

    I opened the back door of my car and placed the case onto the back seat. Switching on the engine, I felt satisfied with today’s outcome – being able to speak to my boss of my concerns and using the rest of the day to complete some outstanding work. So satisfied, I was not distracted by the usual evening traffic and able to meet on time, my 6:30 yoga class, leaving me to feel calm and peaceful for the rest of the night.

      • Here is another version with almost half word count.
        ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

        I was concerned when I spoke to HR about my benefits after seeing my GP. The invoice I received should have been sent to my insurers but I was relieved when told not to worry. I went to the deli, for a liverwurst sandwich and then to the sweet shop for my favourite sweet, red liquorice.

        Determined to complete some work undisturbed, I logged out of my email account and placed my mobile on silence. My boss came and scolded me for switching off my phone. I offered my apologies.

        Her manner was a lot calmer whilst we ate eclairs and drank coffee in the nearby coffee shop. I complained of the disruptions in doing my work. She was sympathetic and said she would look into it.

        As I went into my car, I felt a sense of relief in being able to complete some work and speak to my boss of my concerns. Even though the evening traffic was predictably slow, I still managed to make it for my yoga class, which left me feeling relaxed for the rest of the night.

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