• When possible, replace adverbs with strong verb(s). Adverbs: He peddled fast and furiously through the crowd. Verb: He bulleted through the crowd.
• Include sensory details beyond just visual ones. Offer descriptions of sounds, smells, taste and touch.
• Avoid wherever possible the word to be in all its forms (I am, you are, s/he/it is, we are, etc.), seeking instead more active verbs. No: He is running home. Yes: He runs home.
After you’ve written an initial draft of your essay, go back and circle the word to be in all its forms every time it appears in your essay. Try to replace the circled words with more descriptive and powerful ones. A good website for getting ideas on word replacement is: www.visualthesaurus.com.
• Avoid generic descriptions (nice, pretty, good). Try to find more precise words that convey what you are trying to say.
• Passive vs. active voice. In the passive voice, the subject is acted upon. In the active voice, the subject is doing the acting. Passive: The ladder was pushed up the wall by the fireman. Active: The fireman pushed the ladder up the wall.
• Use definite, specific, concrete language.
Wrong: It rained really hard.
Right: It rained three inches in three hours.
• The final step: Read through your piece and circle weak words. Then go back and try to replace them with stronger ones.