Avoid These10 Verbs That Make You Tell

Show! Don’t Tell. Avoid These 10 Verbs That Make You Tell

  1. appeared
  2. decided
  3. felt
  4. heard
  5. knew
  6. mused
  7. realised
  8. seemed
  9. thought
  10. wondered

How do you avoid using them? Show how your character feels by her actions. Use strong verbs to describe her state of mind.

Don’t say: Angus seemed distracted as he walked along the road.
Do say: Angus paused in the road. A car’s brakes screamed. ‘Hey, watch out!’ He jumped at the sound of the angry driver’s voice. ‘Why don’t you look where you’re going?’

Don’t say: Harry decided to visit the more appealing of the two countries.
Do say: Harry grabbed a pen. He drew up two columns. New Zealand or Germany. Which of the countries was more appealing? This to-do list would help him decide.

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language
  2. 3 Simple Ways To Show And Not Tell
  3. 5 Instances When You Need To Tell (And Not Show)
  4. The 5 Senses – How Readers Remember Stories

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

  by Amanda Patterson

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This article has 14 comments

  1. Nomthetho Ngobese


  2. M. R. Mathias

    Cheryll knew he was lying because she’d heard the call he made. She thought that even though he seemed like a nice guy, he wasn’t. She wondered if he realised she’d caught on or not. When he appeared at the door she felt chills run down her spine. He had a gun so she decided not to unlock it. (Writing this a-mused me) I think I got them all. 😉

  3. I would rather she listened to the call he made.rest of sentence would be and thought that even though he seemed to be a nice guy She realized he was not what he appeared to be

    she she she,wordy

  4. I would rather she listened to the call he made.rest of sentence would be and thought that even though he seemed to be a nice guy She realized he was not what he appeared to be

    she she she,wordy

  5. Gigi Sedlmayer

    Great post, thank you for posting.

  6. Gigi Sedlmayer

    Great post thanks for sharing

  7. Carolyn gattegno

    She listened to his call realizing that he was not as he appeared to be.She worried that he had a gun and did not answer his knock . too wordy to get the same point (could word otherwise too .
    .She heard the call he made.He had a gun and she was concerned that when she opened the door he would look at her face and realize her fear. she decided not to answer his knock etc etc etc

  8. Lorna Stremcha


  9. robin peacock

    some commenter’s have entirely missed the point of the post by M Mathias.

  10. larry shores

    Interesting and informative. Use colorful verbs that are descriptive?

  11. Raymond Chandler

    I am an up and coming writer. I am the guy who failed english and yet excelled at physics.c Im reading all of your posts and in question as to the amount of wording to each that you all use.

    “Her eyes blazed with gleam of fear, the slack on her shoulders growing tense. The call only confirming her fear that he was now who he said he was. Narrowing her eyes she caught sight of a flash from the light off the reflection of the gun. Confirming the intuition she had wondered on. The man talking to the receiver, the monotone not giving sway as his voice, drew out the syllables.”

  12. cHriStinA ThOmaS

    This is the kind of stuff I have been looking for, I appreciate you sharing this! I am officially addicted to this writers write 🙂


    I am stumbling this post. The tips are so simple and yet as I read the differences, I could immediately feel the impact! That is how I want to write!

    To be sure, keeping it in my StumbleUpon list makes sure I can keep coming back until I acquire the habit of writing in this manner.

  14. Writers Write

    Thank you, Robert. We’re glad it helped.

Comments are now closed.