Verbs are the heartbeat of any literary critical argument. We need lively, precise verbs to describe the work of literary texts and to do justice to the arguments made by others. You’ll find these lists of verbs helpful as you write “state of the art” footnotes, bibliographic annotations, and your own proposals/arguments/papers.
Verbs to describe what we do with what has been said before:
- distinguish [what we say from what they say, using “voice markers”]
- acknowledge [who said what]
- cite [details of the venue in which it was said]
- group [similar utterances together, according to methodology, conclusions, focus of attention]
- summarize [what someone has said]
- evaluate [the merits, shortcomings, and utility of someone’s contribution]
Helpful verbs to describe what a journal or book series does:
- is receptive to, is interested in, solicits, favours, seeks, actively seeks, disseminates, accepts, encourages, prefers, welcomes, covers, includes, concentrates on, provides a forum for [a certain kind of approach, topic, author, period]
- publishes, prints, includes [reviews, notes, advertising], publishes articles that demonstrate
- aims to, strives or claims [to do something], seeks to represent, insists that contributors [do something]
- represents [the interests of a scholarly group, the latest scholarship, a particular approach, the best of something]
Tips for Writing Annotations:
- Omit implied subject (e.g., “The article,” “The author).
- Combine two verbs in one sentence using —ing versions of one of them.
- Add a preposition to the —ing phrase: in, by, through (e.g., “By gathering evidence from [sources], shows that…”)
- Add qualifying adverbs (e.g., “briefly”).
Sample verbs to describe what an argument, critic, book, chapter, or article does:
adheres to (an approach)
draws (parallels between)
negates (the claim that)
surfaces (i.e., brings a hitherto unknown artifact or collection into view)
Compiled by English 500, Fall 2011. Revised by English 521, Spring 2014. Revised Janelle Jenstad, 2016 and 2021.