Strong active verbs bring life and description to your paper by more accurately identifying an action and by adding emphases, connotations, or by merely making a common phrase stand out.


1. The tragic accident devastated the entire family.

2. The recorder intercepted many of the secret messages.

3. The author employs three unique symbols—a cherry tree, an empty crypt, and a gold watch.

4. The woman scrutinized every inch of the love letter.

5. Richard Wright’s novels demand literary attention.

6. Why did you hatchet that defenseless freshman with an acerbic remark?


An adverb modifies (changes the meaning of) a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs answer these questions: How? When? Where? Why? How much? How many times? Many adverbs in the English language end in -ly.

Use a comma after an adverb as an opener if the adverb receives special stress.


1. Anxiously, the reader awaits the explosive climax of Lord of the Flies.

2. Clearly, the boys have landed on an island similar to the Garden of Eden.

3. Unfortunately, Simon must battle dark forces beyond his control.

4. Presently the Count enters the room.

5. Brilliantly, the stars shine in the night sky.


A prepositional phrase describes direction (from the hill); describes position (above the door); tells time (at dinner); provides description (with a pen); or shows some abstract relationship (except Jack, for the party, of independence). Prepositional phrases modify nouns or verbs; therefore, they fulfill the purposes of both adverbs and of adjectives. Use a comma after a long introductory prepositional phrase or if the phrase requires special stress; omit it after relatively short phrases. A short listing of prepositions by use follows:

Direction: along, down, from, into, over, through, toward, up

Position: above, across, against, among, amongst, around, at, before, behind, beneath, beside, between, by, in, off, on, under, upon, within

Time: after, at, before, by, during, in, until, within

Means: by, with, without

Abstract: against, except, for, of


1. In the 1930s leftists lived in constant fear of the so-called White Terror imposed by the Nationalist secret police.

2. Without plan or purpose, the main character put the gun in her pocket and headed out the door.

3. During the day he read.

4. At the moment of the earthquake, the telephone rang.

5. For his gold I had no desire.

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