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Improve Writing Skills with Connotation: Verbs and Adjectives

Updated on August 30, 2013

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This is the second entry in my online writing classes. The first covered the basic essay format. This entry in my online writing courses will discuss how to improve writing skills by using colorful verbs and adjectives, which is part of style or voice.

Style is an important part of writing skills. It gives your paper interest, and it makes your unique voice evident. Style is often difficult to teach. It seems that some people “have it,” while others don’t. For example, I feel pretty sure that the great writers like Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Tennyson never had to take online writing courses on style. Even if you don’t have a natural gift for word choice, however, there are several ways to improve your writing skills, and I hope you'll find my online writing classes helpful.

Connotation


Many words we use have connotation. Connotation is an idea that’s suggested by a word, beyond its literal meaning. Connotations often include emotions and judgments. For example, the words determined and stubborn have much the same literal meaning, but determined is usually a positive character trait, while stubborn is usually negative.

Verbs

You can improve writing skills by paying more attention to the verbs you use. We all know what verbs are, right? Verbs are words that show action:

The horse ran across the field.

The dog sniffed the empty can.

My mother cooked dinner.

The words in italics are all verbs. Every sentence must contain a verb, and the verb you choose to use can add more meaning to your sentence without actually changing the basic meaning of the sentence:

The girl rose quickly from her chair.

The girl leapt from her chair.

These two sentences have the same meaning, but the second one is more interesting. Leapt helps your reader create a stronger mental image because it carries connotation.

Another example:

The old man walked down the road.

The old man trudged down the road.

The second sentence has far more connotation than the first. With trudged, the reader gets the sense that walking was difficult for the old man. See? Just by changing the verb, you’ve added meaning to the sentence and have made it more colorful and interesting.

Adjectives

You can also improve writing skills by using adjectives. Adjectives are words that describe nouns:

The shaggy dog needed a bath.

The red truck was for sale.

The words in italics are adjectives. Adjectives add description to sentences, but they aren’t grammatically necessary. In other words, a sentence doesn’t have to contain an adjective.

Like verbs, adjectives can have connotation that can make your sentences more interesting, thereby improving your writing skills by adding to your style or voice.

Look at these two sentences:

The crippled man walked down the road.

The crooked man walked down the road.

Crooked implies that the man’s body was bent in some way because of his affliction. Crooked has more connotation than crippled.

Some adjectives are just more interesting than others. Take the following sentences, for example:

The red berries hung from the tree.

The crimson berries hung from the tree.

His white face revealed that he was in shock.

His alabaster face revealed that he was in shock.

The old man walked down the bumpy road.

The old man walked down the rutted road.

Let’s try using colorful verbs and adjectives in the same sentence:

The old man walked down the road.

The crooked old man trudged down the rutted road.

See how the second sentence is much more interesting than the first? This is due to connotation, which can become part of your style or voice and improve your writing skills.

A word of caution

When you’re learning how to improve your writing skills with the use of colorful verbs and adjectives, don’t get carried away. Think of it as eating fudge. A little bit is wonderful, but too much can make you sick!

When I was teaching actual writing courses, I’d often have students go through their papers and circle every other verb. I would then ask them to change every boring verb to one that had more interest. You can do the same thing with adjectives.

To read more about writing skills, check out my other online writing courses, found below. I’ll be adding to these in the coming weeks. If you’re a high school student wanting to learn how to improve your writing skills, I hope you find my free online writing classes helpful!

Improve writing skills with my free writing courses!
Improve writing skills with my free writing courses!

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    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared with followers.

      This hub is a good explanation of connotation. I mentioned connotation in the fourth paragraph of the first capsule of my recent hub 7 Creative Writing Rules _ Rules 5 and 6, and I linked the word to this hub.

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      Thanks Habee ..As a writer we should take care of Verbs and Adjectives

    • nevilriker profile image

      nevilriker 5 years ago from Nashville TN

      A nice refresher on usage and intent marked this one as useful.

    • profile image

      Angela 6 years ago

      Awesome! Your article is very impressive. Thanks for the information.

    • profile image

      V Qisya 6 years ago

      Great! Thank you for sharing.

    • Ania L profile image

      Ania L 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I was delighted to find your series of articles on writing, this is exactly what I need, thank you very much. I only wonder if using colorful sentences doesn't turn them into those with "wordiness" label?

    • profile image

      fashion 6 years ago

      Informative and interesting article.I am thankful to you for helping me.

    • profile image

      kate 6 years ago

      It is my great honor to have the chance to look throught the nice and informative

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    • profile image

      klevifusha 6 years ago

      This is an excellent article. I learned so much. Thank you for sharing your wonderful writing knowledge. I will be following you and I will be looking forward to reading more of your work.

    • Kamalesh050 profile image

      Kamalesh050 6 years ago from Sahaganj, Dist. Hooghly, West Bengal, India

      The article is EXCELLENT, I enjoyed it immensely. Undoubtedly this will be of great help to the readers. English is not my mother tongue but I do love the language, it is so sweet and it is very true that right choice of words can make any sentence more colourful, powerful and interesting.

      Very Best Wishes to you,

      Kamalesh

      VOTED 'UP' AND RATED 'AWESOME'

    • Alladream74 profile image

      Victor Mavedzenge 6 years ago from Oakland, California

      A well written honest hub.Thank you!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Dreatech, thanks for your kind words!

      Thanks, Nicky. I love words!

    • profile image

      stephen 6 years ago

      Very insightful and helpful hub cheers!

    • CJamesIII profile image

      CJamesIII 6 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Great hub! It's nice to see that someone out there really is paying attention to the nuances of our language.

    • chamilj profile image

      chamilj 6 years ago from Sri Lanka

      I am not a native English speaker so this is really helpful to me. Thanks! Rated up!

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      I really wish you were one of my teachers when I was learning grammar. Your explanations are so easy to understand. Great hub!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Super, thanks so much for the comment!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      CD, thanks for visiting!

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

      Great article that has really thought me a lot on how to improve my writing skills,thanks for sharing this great secret.

    • dtchosen profile image

      dtchosen 6 years ago from Dumaguete City, Philippines

      I've learned something today:) thank you..

    • montecristo profile image

      Angel Caleb Santos 6 years ago from Hampton Roads, Virginia

      Great article. I learned a lot. Grammar is very important for the writer as well as content. Well done and informative.

    • Nicky Smart profile image

      Nicky Smart 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Words are so powerful - especially when placed just so....

      Great Hub habee and you have a couple of exercises in here I must try myself.

    • Dreatech profile image

      Dreatech 6 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

      Thanks for the passion you have towards teaching. Unlike most teachers, most expecially the ones that thinks government are to get them paid and not the pupils. Thanks! Once again for the passion, and effort. i wish am one of those student you have thought, or may be one of your kid. Lol. God bless. Pls keep it burning.

    • iamsuper profile image

      iamsuper 6 years ago

      there are a lot of writing course for free on internet, the link above is so useful. thank you for writing this.

    • profile image

      cdarayoung 6 years ago

      Very useful...thanks

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Glad you stopped by, Poker!

      susannah, love your avatar!

      MBL, thanks for reading!

      Craig, I hope so - I'm still a teacher at heart!

      Thanks, farooq!

    • craigmissuea profile image

      craigmissuea 6 years ago from USA

      Your article will surely help beginners to develop an innovative style in their writing.

    • profile image

      MBL Jerseys 6 years ago

      MBL Jerseys Well ,so good

    • susannah42 profile image

      susannah42 6 years ago from Florida

      I love using adjectives when writing. It makes such a difference in the interest level.

    • profile image

      poker online 6 years ago

      thanks for giving us the tips. and now i think i can improve my writing skills

    • profile image

      Farooq1 6 years ago

      nice hub!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      You're welcome, Mavis! I've enjoyed writing my online writing courses!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Wow! Thanks, Docmo!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Bennett, I'll try to get around to that - I'm swamped right now. If I don't read some of your hubs soon, please send me an email reminder.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks a bunch, Magick!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      I am, too, Lex!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you very much, Alisha!

    • Mavis Nong profile image

      Mavis Nong 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Habee,

      Awesome hub! Thanks for sharing your tips.

      All the best!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      You're very welcome, Penny!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Erica, thanks SOOOOO much!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Great Hub, habee. You are a good teacher with excellent suggestions all the way through. Really useful.

    • Bennett Thompson profile image

      Bennett Thompson 6 years ago from Portland, OR

      "Think of it as eating fudge. A little bit is wonderful, but too much can make you sick!" Love it! Thank you for writing this insightful hub. I'm always wanting to improve my writing skills and find my voice. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff.

      PS - I would be more than happy to accept some constructive criticism if you ever find the time to read some of my hubs.

    • Article Magick profile image

      Article Magick 6 years ago from Dublin

      Excellent article!

    • lex123 profile image

      lex123 6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing such an informative hub. I'm glad to see it is helping so many people.

    • AlishaMora profile image

      AlishaMora 6 years ago from USA

      Thank you so much for the hub! As a writer I am always trying to improve my skills, and your information is very helpful.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Good for you, Nat!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Anaday, great timing, huh? lol

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Lauretta, I appreciate your comment!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Adam, thanks for the tip!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Palistus, I'm glad you did!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Agaglia, you're very welcome!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Dl, thanks for attending my online writing classes!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Pulse, welcome to class!

      Cindy and Mass Inda, so glad you stopped by!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Moki, glad you found it helpful!

      Trimar, some teachers are better than others! lol

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks, Matherese!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      dswan, I see you!! lol

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Charka, hope it helps!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Nice of you to visit, Celebrity!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks, John!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Best toys, thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Welcome aboard, Turtle!

    • pennyofheaven profile image

      pennyofheaven 6 years ago from New Zealand

      I have much to learn! Thanks for the very informative hub!

    • profile image

      Erica 6 years ago

      Nice lesson - I especially liked the tip about how to advise students on practical application: "take every other verb, and now try to increase the interest." Because it's so easy to go overboard, or not get it, how far to take the concept in practice.

      Hope you enjoying the many fans and compliments for a basic writing lesson! Please keep 'em coming.

    • Nat Amaral profile image

      Nat Amaral 6 years ago from BC Canada

      You've given quite a few useful tips. I'll remember that with my letters and stories.

    • anaday profile image

      anaday 6 years ago from Ireland

      I really enjoyed reading your lesson. I fell in love with the usage of connotative words, more ¨visual¨ verbs and different adjectives when I was taking a preparatory course to sit the CAE test in Brazil, but hadn't had a lesson on these since 2005, so I'm delighted to have found your hub! Cheers from Ireland.

    • Lauretta123 profile image

      Lauretta123 6 years ago from Ukr

      great lesson, thanks

    • profile image

      Adam Smith 6 years ago

      One of making writing less boring is through stocking up vocabularies. The more words you know, the more likely the writing will be better. I stumbled across a useful tool that can help here as visual dictionary. http://www.snappywords.com/

    • profile image

      Palistus 6 years ago

      Thank you, I found this hub very useful.

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 6 years ago

      thank you for the reminder about action verbs and adjectives.

      good hub.

    • dloriginal profile image

      dloriginal 6 years ago

      That was a great read. Valuable information. Thanks

    • profile image

      Mass Inda 6 years ago

      Great hub. I am a writer myself, thanks for the tips, I'll be using them.

    • profile image

      Cindy 6 years ago

      That's great :-) I'm trying my best to do so.

    • Pulse101 profile image

      Pulse101 6 years ago

      I think it needs to learn more vocabulary or to know other synonyms of the particular word for us to use it in the right way, am I right?

      Thanks for sharing this. I have learned a lot from your online writing course... Your hubs on this topic are simple, concise and easy to understand. Have to read some more, so write more please about this. You're my teacher now here and not only me but also my daughter's. Bookmarked! ...I'm digesting what you shared here.

    • trimar7 profile image

      trimar7 6 years ago from New York

      Sounds like many of us are going back to the basics. Why did teachers believe that children could learn without the explicit instruction?

    • Mokibobolink profile image

      Mokibobolink 6 years ago from Southern California

      Great hub! Very helpful, thanks! :o)

    • profile image

      matherese 6 years ago

      Hi i really like your post. Will have to read it one more time. Thanks

    • dswan9 profile image

      dswan9 6 years ago from Amsterdam and London

      hey will you see me at the bottom here ? great article on writing.I write short stories myself and seriously need to do a few writing courses and open my writng to some constructive criticism. maybe I will just pop back here every now and gain

    • charkamman profile image

      charkamman 6 years ago from portugal

      Wow that was very useful, especially because English is not my first language.

      thanks!

    • CelebrityEditor profile image

      CelebrityEditor 6 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks for the great refresher!

    • john27 profile image

      john27 6 years ago

      fantastic tips for new beginner in writing

      like me i like it

      good job!!!

    • BestToysReport profile image

      BestToysReport 6 years ago from USA

      Good tutorial,Thanks for sharing.

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 6 years ago

      Great tips! Thanks for all your help! Voted UP and following you now. Look forward to reading more!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Sorry, Sterling - you definitely AREN'T the most grammatically incorrect writer. Believe me!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Traveller, I hope students - especially ESOL students - find my online writing clases helpful!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks a bunch, Omnaser!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Nanret, thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Goukiandy, glad it helped!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Oh, Piers, thanks for those kind words!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Chandra, so glad that you like my online writing classes!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Dbg, thanks for that vote of confidence!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Craan, You're very welcome, and thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Randy, I think you're right - sometimes it's all about time.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Karen, we each have our strong points!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Xam, thank you very much!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Shane, thanks for your kind words!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      JListen, just think how much success you could have had with girls if you had used writing skills for composing poetry! lol

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Resume Genius, you're right about younger writers!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      JJ, thanks for attending class!

      Erin, I appreaciate that!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Rox, thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Ocbill, happy whirling! lol