Jan 26

Editing and Revisions – Do a Verb and Word Check

Do a verb and word check.

Contributed by Linda Wilson

No revision is complete without a thorough check of the verbs in your manuscript.

You want to make your verbs clean. You want to make your verbs sparkle. And if you love words, as I do, it won’t be a chore to highlight each one, take a moment to decide if it works or not, and then either keep it or change it.

My quest to make my verbs sizzle and pop has blossomed into contemplating nouns, ridding my manuscript of most adjectives and all no-no adverbs, and what’s been the most fun: rephrasing many parts of sentences, indeed, often changing entire sentences. I’ve even found inaccuracies I’ve somehow missed. This is after a thorough sweep of my project by more than one expert editor!

Lesson learned: the buck stops at the author. No one else can fine-tune your work the way you can and no one cares as much as you do.

Use the “Find” Function in Word
I’m on the Rs. That’s right, almost done. My process:

Click on the "Find" function in Word
Type in the word in question
Click on "Find in"
Click Main document
Word will give you the number of this word that you have used
Click Highlight All
Go through the text and decide whether to keep or change the word
Use your own and online dictionary and thesaurus 

I split the screen in two, one side a tally of the words I am working on, and the other, my manuscript. My tally sheet is eight pages long: the words are listed in one long column in order to use the “alphabetize” function. My goal is a minimum of three to avoid too much repetition, unless the word is repeated for characterization purposes or simply works best.

The List

The list I’ve compiled for this post consists of the most troublesome repeats: the first number is the repeats first found, the second is the whittled-down version. The latter number shows the actual number of those words used now. Some words, such as ran and sat, are part of bigger words and don’t count as being repetitive, and are listed in the first number, but not the second.

down 146:15 (Yikes!)
dropped 24:5
fell 19:8
glanced 31:4
grabbed 28:3
headed 12:3
holding 14:3
hurried 7:6
just 49:6
kept 20:4
let/let’s/letting 89:11
look/looked/looking 46:5
minute 24:8
moved 21:7
peered 12:3
picked up 17:5
pointed 28:2
pulled 33:7
ran 95:10
reached 27:8
rose 13:7
sat 35:10
stood 53: Eek!
took 55: Help!

A Few Examples

Too many "slips": A boy slipped in next to the woman. v A boy peeked out from behind the woman. 
Too many "slids": He ignored them, continued to the next hive, removed that frame,--v slid that frame out,--and inspected it. 
 . . . and placed (v slid) the silhouettes in the back seat. 
Too many "lowereds": While dabbing at the inky black hair sticking out from under her hair band, sunglasses still lowered, she eyed Jess. v While dabbing at the inky black hair sticking out from under her headband, sunglasses now hovering somewhere around the groove between her nostrils and her upper lip, she eyed Jess.

Whittling Down the Words

How did whittling down these words change my manuscript?

The wording often changed, and often the word in question was deleted altogether.
I found the most delicious verbs and alternate thought patterns that feel fresher than my original wording.
Some changes came in the form of adding more actions by the characters and showing more emotions. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi is the main resource I'm using, though Google searches are a big help, too. 
Zeroing in on a sentence or phrase allowed me to find ways of using alliteration and figurative language more.
Found opportunities for more feedback from characters to each other and to the main character.
Weeded out superfluous words.
I believe my language is much more colorful now.
Has helped to tighten scenes.
Caveat: It has gotten more difficult to find fresher words as I draw closer to Y (no Zs, yet anyway).

The Finish Line

This pursuit has become a game: How many interesting words can I collect and jot down for The List? When I’m finished, I plan to print the pages, cut them so only the column of words is showing, and tape the columns together on fewer pages for easy access for future projects. Funny how collecting words like this hasn’t struck me until now after many years of writing. But I’ve got the bug now and I can see the writing on The List: it will keep growing and growing and growing!

This post was originally published at:

Children's author

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.


I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter/editor. Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN.

Writing for children tips

Create a Believable Protagonist with Realistic Characteristics

Keep Your Writing Goals Front and Center

Writers – 4 Power Tips to Breaking a Bad Habit

Writing Workshops – Getting the Most out of Them

Please Share!