Verbs and Nouns Make For Better Writing

The strength of your writing comes from the choice of words you use. The general advice is that certain words help strengthen narrative, like verbs and nouns, while others, such as adjectives and adverbs, can weaken it.
So why do verbs and nouns make for better writing?
Nouns make up a large part of the English language – they denote things, people, animals, actions, places and even ideas. They are as versatile as they are useful because they have so many functions. Every sentence you write contains verbs and nouns, but because writers tend to rely too much on adjectives and adverbs, it often results in a lack of nouns and verbs in the narrative.
There are several types of nouns: Proper, Common, Collective, Abstract, Countable and Uncountable nouns.
A proper noun is a specific or unique name of a person, place or thing. Jupiter, New York and Samantha are proper nouns. 
Common nouns, on the other hand, refer to ordinary objects and things, names and places etc., for instance:
Tom grabbed the flashlight and listened at the door. He heard the sound in the hallway; dull thuds down each stair. His pulse drummed hard beneath his clammy skin, but despite the fear, he knew he had to investigate
The narrative in this example has ten common nouns – highlighted in bold. There are also some verbs in there, with the odd adjective just to round the off paragraph. You can see how nouns and verbs help the narrative flow, it’s active, it’s dynamic and it also conveys to the reader the mood of narrative.
Concrete nouns can be perceived by our senses; they can be seen, touched, smelled and tasted, for example:
He stroked the cat.
Pass be that book.
The fur feels soft.
It tastes like salt.
Collective nouns refer to a group of people, things or animals that are considered as a collective, for instance, an army, a crowd of people, a committee of representatives, or a herd of cows.
Abstract nouns refer to things we can’t touch or generally perceive – often they express emotions, feelings, conditions, ideas and qualities. For example:
I hate Mondays.
Love conquers all.
Time is of the essence.
Countable nouns describe exactly what they do – they are nouns that can be counted or quantified. They can denote objects and people and can be single or plural.
There’s a car in the garage (singular).
There are two cars in the garage (plural).
Uncountable nouns denote things that cannot be counted. They are often referred to as mass nouns – or a collective. These are things like rice, milk, sugar or water. These types of nouns don’t normally make plural nouns.
The bowl is full of sugar.
There is a lot of water in the bath.
The right nouns can help make the narrative vivid and to ensure you show the reader rather than tell. Unlike too many adjectives and adverbs, nouns can provide varied meanings and keep the narrative active. Don’t tell the reader there is a tree in a field. Tell them it’s a mighty oak. Tell them it’s a sycamore or a spruce. The reader can’t see or touch love, but they can see candles, the romantic low light, a bed, glasses of champagne and a beautiful sunset, all possible if the nouns (and verbs) do the work.
Talking of verbs, these are what give life to your narrative. They give the narrative active and drama and provide tone. The right verb choice can help the writer be specific, especially with descriptions. And the aim is to always make the narrative active. Take these examples:
He held tightly to the door in case it slammed shut, locking them in.
He ran quickly from the fire.
These sentences use adverbs (tightly and quickly) rather than a much stronger verb. Adverbs have their place, if correctly used, but verbs make the narrative dynamic rather than bland, so if the adverbs are replaced by verbs, the sentences will be much stronger, for example:
He gripped the door in case it slammed shut and locked them in.
He rushed from the fire.
Strong verbs paint a more vivid picture for the reader. These sentences are much better than the first examples because the verbs ‘gripped’ and ‘rushed’ are descriptive words, but they also make the sentences tighter.
The right choice of nouns and verbs make for better writing because they help enhance the narrative, they make it descriptive and vivid. More importantly, they show the reader, they make things specific and above all, unlike adverbs and adjectives, they make the narrative active.


  1. Another fascinating post. I'm not usually able to use the fine advice you give due to the nature of my job (I write technical manuals and the like) But I always look forward to your latest posts. Perhaps one day I can actually use what you teach us here.


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