In Writing In English As A Second Language, I quoted (said what someone else said) William Zinsser, who wrote that “your best tools are short, plain…active verbs…. So fall in love with active verbs. They are your best friends.”
Mike Emrick is the play-by-play announcer (person who describes a game on radio or TV) for the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team. Many people believe he’s the best. The verbs he uses are one of the reasons why. The verbs he uses help his listeners see the action.
Recently someone made a list of verbs Emerick has used to describe Blackhawk games. I’ve chosen a few of them to show how good active verbs can give your reader or listener a better idea – a picture, in fact – of what you’re describing.
You don’t need to know much about hockey to make sense of (understand) Emerick’s verbs. Just remember that in hockey, players skate back and forth on the ice and use sticks to try to hit the puck (small round piece of hard rubber) into the other team’s net, or goal. It’s like soccer on ice.
I’ve chosen two groups of verbs. The first group describes how players hit the puck. The second group describes how the puck moves, especially as it goes into the net.
Here are some of Emrick’s verbs:
Chop – He chopped at the puck. / He hit at the puck as if trying to cut something with a tool.
Finesse – He finessed the puck into the net. / He hit the puck in a skillful or expert way.
Jab – He jabbed at the puck. / He hit at the puck with short quick movements of his stick.
Muscle – He muscled the puck into the net. / He used all his strength to hit the puck into the net.
Sky – He skied the puck. / He hit the puck high into the air.
Swat – He swatted at the puck. / He tried to hit the puck the same way you would try to hit a mosquito or some other insect that was bothering you.
Hop – The puck hopped into the net. / The puck jumped into the net like a rabbit.
Curl – The puck curled into the net. / The puck moved into the net in a curved (not straight), or circular, line.
Trickle – The puck trickled into the net. / The puck moved slowly into the net, little by little.
Skitter – The puck skittered across the ice. / The puck moved lightly and quickly, like a small animal.
If you do a lot of reading and listening, and pay attention to the verbs writers and speakers use, you’ll discover many more good active verbs.
Can you think of some other good active verbs for hockey or soccer? Let’s see how many verbs we can come up with that fit one of the sentences I used above – He _____ the puck (or ball) or The puck (or ball) _____ into the net. Add your verbs to the comments.
~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.
Photo from Deviantart used under Creative Commons license.