Spot Verbs in Nouns' Clothing: Use Writing Reviser Google Doc Add-on


Too often beginning writers revise their work without a clear sense of purpose. Sadly, that often results in a paper that becomes different rather than better, a process akin to someone blindly twisting and re-twisting a Rubik’s cube, uniformed by a larger strategy.

The process can be painful to watch.

No matter how earnest and determined the student may be, those qualities alone are insufficient to produce improvements.

The free Writing Reviser Google Doc Add-on changes all that. Unlike a grammar checker, we seek less to identify mistakes than to point out opportunities for improvement. In the process students begin to recognize the crucial distinction between mere correctness and forceful writing.

Consider the following sentence:
Gabriel García Márquez was the winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for literature.

By most diagnostics, this sentence will receive no comment—as though it were un-improvable. After all, the subject and verb agree, the facts are correct, and so on. But Writing Reviser isn’t most diagnostics: it prompts the student to ask a deeper question: Can I express this idea more vigor? More specifically, Writing Reviser clarifies two key details:

  • It identifies “was” as a potentially weak verb.
  • It prompts the writer to a reconsider converting a word she has used as a noun (winner) to the main verb in the sentence, a process we call identifying a verb in noun's clothing.

The result is a more direct and forceful sentence:
Gabriel García Márquez won  the 1982 Nobel Prize for literature.

Even more important, the student is learning how to revise a paper rather than simply shuffle words.

Conventional methods offer abstract and generally unhelpful injunctions. Giving students a topic and the command “Write clearly!” is akin to pushing them out a window and shouting “Fly!” By analyzing the students own words, rather than a generic sentence, Writing Reviser offers a paradigm-bursting change in writing instruction.

Learning to spot hidden verbs in just one of the many ways Writing Reviser teaches beginning writers to ask themselves the kind of questions experienced writers ask automatically.

Add Writing Reviser to your Google Docs today for free from the G Suite Marketplace. Learn more about Writing Reviser—and our complete suite of writing tools from Curriculum Pathways—at

All Writing Navigator tools are also available on the Curriculum Pathways website and as a free iPad app!

Looking for more resources to help students choose strong verbs?

Look for Verbs in Noun’s Clothing
Pit-bull Guide to Powerful Prose
Strong Verbs
Mark Twain Shows How to Select a Variety of Verbs
Abraham Lincoln Shows How to Choose Strong Verbs
Verbs: Heart of the Sentence


About Author

Tim McBride

Supervisor, Educational Multimedia Writing

Tim McBride has degrees from Rochester Institute of Technology and NC State University, where he taught English for several years. His first book of poetry, The Manageable Cold, was published recently by TriQuarterly Press at Northwestern University. He works as a writer and an editor on Curriculum Pathways. He lives in Cary, NC, with an American pit bull terrier named Charlie McCarthy and a Catahoula hog dog named Junk.

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