Good writing depends on crisp, active verbs. This is true for songwriting, fiction, sermons, essays and all other forms of writing. Also, preachers and liturgical readers can better hold the interest of listeners by emphasizing verbs when speaking.
Author/professor of English Frederick Smock has said:
Sometimes I ask my students to make a verb skeleton of a poem, or passage, that they have written. By isolating the verbs, one can tell if they carry the weight of the action (which they should). A good writer’s sentences move on the wheels of the verbs.
- Songwriters, do this with your lyrics
- Preachers, do this with your sermons
- Hymnodists, do this with old hymns you’re revising — especially if you want to edit archaic language. Don’t replace strong verbs with weak ones.
Circle or highlight your verbs. Or, if you’re ambitious, write the verbs from your latest song on a separate piece of paper. What do these verbs tell you about your song? Does it zip or plod?
Here is a partial verb skeleton for mine and Kristen’s “Rising Tide,” one of the songs you can get for free in our The Whole Big Story record, on your right:
This is something you’ll have to decide each time. You need not delete every was and became, nor exchange every passive verb for an active one. But too many of them will make for a brittle, boring skeleton. Make yours strong, straight and ready to spring to life.
For more on how to improve your writing through verbs, see:
Thank you for reading our post. You can download our 4-song worship album “The Whole Big Story” for free in the top-right sidebar of this website. We’ve also heard from many churches who have enjoyed leading these songs in worship services. If you’d like to do so, download free chord sheets from the “Gilles Music” tab at the top of this page. And you can subscribe to this blog for free by clicking the RSS icon or signing up via email in the right-hand sidebar.
– Bobby & Kristen
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