Verbal Warning

Verbal Warning: A Rave About Writing

Cover of Verbal Behavior by B.F.Skinner

Cover of Verbal Behavior by B.F.Skinner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ideas for this blog come to me at the strangest times. For example, in the middle of the night last night, I had to get up to address a call of nature.

Scratch that. Last night, in the middle of the night, I fumbled my way out of the bedclothes, fell out of bed, and staggered toward the bathroom.  And, no, I was not drunk. I’m just not very coordinated at two in the morning.

However, my creative side seems to function just fine because I actually considered what verb would best convey my progress toward that little room.

So, I’m a little weird about words; I believe we’ve covered that in previous posts.

Here’s my point: the right (or wrong) verb can make or break a sentence. 

Admit it. After reading that first sentence, you probably were saying to yourself, “Oh, ho hum. Who cares if Kym had to get up in the middle of the night?” After the second, more active sentence, perhaps you were wondering, “Why was Kym stumbling? Was she sick? Drunk? Going to the aid of a sick child? Or was she merely very tired?”

So, when you write, think carefully about your verb choice and what that choice might convey.  Don’t  just say your character walked across the room, tell your readers how. Did your hero amble toward the heroine? (Shades of a dusty cowboy fresh from rounding up the horses.)  Did your heroine scuttle across the street? (Finding her way to a hiding place to spy on her philandering husband.) Or, maybe she merely drifted into a room. (A “diamond of the first water” floating into a ball as all heads turn toward her.)

I actually have a list — culled from many other lists I’ve found here and there — of some of the many ways a person can move.  Here are just a few: schlepp, tramp, lope, march, prowl, gambol, scoot, slouch. Perhaps you’d like to leave a comment with an example of when and how you might use them.

P.S. I’ve always wondered what the phrase “diamond of the first water” meant. So I looked it up. Here’s the origin, from the website, English for Students (


From the gem trade. The clarity of diamonds is assessed by their translucence; the more like water, the higher the quality. Thiscomparison of diamonds with water dates back to at least the early 17th century, and Shakespeare alludes to it in Tymon of Athens, 1607. The 1753 edition of Chambers’ Encyclopedia has this under an entry for ‘Diamond’:

“The first water in Diamonds means the greatest purity and perfection of their complexion, which ought to be that of the clearest drop of water. When Diamonds fall short of this perfection, they are said to be of the second or third water, &c. till the stonemay be properly called a coloured one.”

About kymlucas

"Taking care not to take love too seriously." Writer of smart, fresh, contemporary romance and women's fiction. Blogging about writing, reading, and more recently, dealing with the ins and outs of breast cancer.
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4 Responses to Verbal Warning

  1. Amble, tiptoe, lurch, edge, trek, mince, saunter, prance, slink, … This is fun!!!


  2. theromcomdiaries says:

    Now you mention it, I did always wonder what diamond of the first water meant, so thanks for letting me know that! Also, I tend to get really bizarre times when inspiration strikes me too, mostly in the middle of the night or when I am at work with no pen or paper and thus have to furiously mentally scribble down everything I can possibly remember in my brain and hope it doesn’t lose its shine when I get it onto paper.


    • kymlucas says:

      My house, car and whatever book I’m reading are always filled with bits of paper that say things like “birth = women’s work during that time period” and “Sears kit home style.” Guess there’s no doubt about it — we writers are a little flaky!


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