Sometimes, despite cramming plenty of action and conﬂict into my writing, it still falls ﬂat. I want the words to leap oﬀ the page and grab readers by the throat, and instead they ﬂop around gasping for breath.
Fortunately, there’s a straightforward revision trick that can rejuvenate such writing: a verb check.
I start by going through the piece and underlining or highlighting every verb. Typically, two different problems reveal themselves. First, I ﬁnd the work is strewn with way too many functional-but-boring “to be” verbs. Second, even in those cases where I’ve used more active choices, a pattern emerges: I’ve repeated certain verbs way too often, defaulting to them as if they were the over-eager student with her hand in the air after every question.
So I go back through the work, replacing the duds with more active, specific, and varied verbs, packing power into the writing with every change.
It’s a sure trick for revving up your students’ writing as well!