One of the simplest ways to make your writing more powerful is to expand your arsenal. Don’t simply use the first word that comes to mind; take a few moments to consider the alternatives.
There are times when you know that the words you used aren’t quite right. Your sentences and paragraphs are flat, drab, and lifeless. That’s when many writers will resort to tacking modifiers onto their nouns and verbs—adjectives and adverb—to try to invigorate things.
Rather than throwing in a boatload of modifiers, consider changing the nouns and verbs.
Any given word frequently has a number of synonyms, words that mean the same thing, or nearly the same thing, or a special case of the same thing. You can take advantage of those different shades of meaning and different connotations.
For example: He walked across the room.
Walk is a fine word, a workmanlike word. It frequently gets the job done.
But is it always the best word? Can you convey more information, give that five-word sentence more punch by using an alternative?
Consider these alterations:
He tromped across the room.
He sauntered across the room.
He ambled across the room.
He tip-toed across the room.
He paraded across the room.
He marched across the room.
He stumbled across the room.
He strutted across the room.
He trudged across the room.
He strode across the room.
He plodded across the room.
He stalked across the room.
He paced across the room.
He sashayed across the room.
He padded across the room.
He scuffed across the room.
He stumped across the room.
He wended his way across the room.
He danced across the room.
He staggered across the room.
He stole across the room.
He shuffled across the room.
He drifted across the room.
Each alternative creates a different image in the reader’s mind. Each gives a different clue about our protagonist’s physical bearing and emotional state.
I’m not saying you should replace plain words with multi-syllable, “college-educated” words. None of the alternatives for walk in the example above are any fancier. They’re just different.
(On the other hand, you can use highfalutin words if you want to and if you think your audience will appreciate it. William F. Buckley, Jr., for one, was famous for incorporating uncommon, polysyllabic words in his writing. If you want to replace walk with peregrinate, have at it.)
Select your words carefully. Ask yourself if there’s a better word to express what you want. Become friends with a good thesaurus.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.