How can you change weak verbs into emotional or visual ones? One single practice presented here will transform your writing when you use it consistently.What’s the One Thing That Will Transform Your Writing? by Barbara McNichol

It’s this: Watch out for “is” words and their various cousins. Stay alert to phrases such as “is happening” or “was being good” and change them to “happens” or “behaved” when you can.

Make a point of searching out every weak “is” in your manuscript and finding a stronger alternative. Agreed?

Lazy Linking Phrases

Add to your list of “is” words the linking phrases such as “there are” and “there will be.” If you catch yourself using them, rewrite them! For example, “There will be many representatives elected” becomes “voters will elect many representatives.” Better yet, instead of many, use a specific number.

Why do I call these phrases lazy? Because they often lead into long passive sentences that slow readers down. When your readers have to swim upstream to follow what you write, they tend to give up. Better to ease them along with crisp, sharp prose—based on active verbs!

Test the Waters

I keep beating the drum about active verbs because they will make your writing better. Test the waters on everything you write. You’ll see how they improve the flow, enhance the clarity, and add muscle to the meaning.


Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping authors add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created a Word Trippers Tips resource so you can quickly find the right word when it matters most. It allows you to improve your writing through excellent weekly resources in your inbox, including a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Details at