Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Power of the Verb is a Must for Children's Writers

Children love action stories. The best way to pull a young reader into your story is to use power verbs with the active voice and your story will come alive. Active voice is when the subject is doing the action. “Mike drove the car into a ditch.”

In college I learned to use the wonderful heavy, intellectual passive voice. I loved to write out the “where to’s”, “moreover’s”, “in as much as’s”, “to be’s” and so on. Very dry but very impressive with the sound of authority. However, these particular passive words are not good choices for a children’s story if you want to grab their attention.

Sometimes it is necessary and OK to use boring verbs because they get the job done quickly but they should be only about 5% of your writing and be spread through out the story. Do not concentrate them all in one chapter or paragraph.

When you are writing your next article or story and are stumped, check out the Power Verb list. Feel free to print out this post and place it near your computer. Just for fun see how many can be used as a sentence. For instance Act! Choose! Drive!

Here Are Your 104 Power Verbs To Read Out Loud

Abolish, Accelerate, Achieve, Act, Adopt, Align, Anticipate, Apply, Assess, Avoid,

Boost, Break, Bridge, Build, Burn, Capture, Change, Choose, Clarify, Clobber, Confront, Connect, Conquer, Convert, Create,

Decide, Define, Defuse, Deliver, Deploy, Design, Develop, Diagnose, Discover, Drive

Eliminate, Ensure, Establish, Evaluate, Exploit, Explore, Filter, Finalize, Find, Focus, Foresee

Gain, Gather, Generate, Grasp, Identify, Ignite, Implement, Improve, Increase, Innovate, Inspire, Intensify

Lead, Learn, Leverage, Manage, Master, Maximize, Measure, Mobilize, Motivate, Overcome, Penetrate, Persuade, Plan, Position, Prepare, Prevent, Profit,

Raise, Reconsider, Reduce, Refresh, Replace, Resist, Respond, Retain,

Save, Scan, Shatter, Shave-off, Sidestep, Simplify, Slash, Solve, Stimulate, Stop, Stretch, Succeed, Supplement

Take, Transfer, Transform, Understand, Unleash, Unravel, Use, Win.

“Words are, of course, the most powerful
drug used by mankind.”

~ Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), English author

Write it down,



  1. Good stuff. Using strong verbs is especially important in picture books, where they sound so much better read aloud.

  2. Thank you Jon,
    I get a lot of my inspiration from Write4Kids and appreciate all that you offer.


  3. Hi Carma,

    I will tell you voice is important in any type of writing, other than the dry business stuff. :-). In my technical documentation, I have to think in the active to keep the reader involved and active. It is the same with my food writing.

    So this is a good lesson for all writers.
    Thanks as always,

  4. Yes Judy active voice is a given and I think some of the dry technical stuff could be easier to read with a more active voice.

    Thank you for stopping by.

  5. Good information again, especially for those of us interested in writing for children. Thank you.


  6. Hi terri,
    Yes stories for children is all about action. I like writing with verbs.