A Writer’s Guide to Emotions

When writing about emotions, it can be easy to fall into the trap of writing simplistically. Phrases like:

  • She was very tired after a long day.
  • “Stop!” He said angrily.
  • The rain made the child feel sad.

And others have their place, but they shouldn’t be the standard way to write emotion.

One of the things to think about is the word very. According to the very wise Professor Keating (as played by Robin Williams in the Dead Poets Society), we should “Avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired- he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad- use morose.”

And you don’t want to be lazy! So, to help you eliminate the word very from your vocabulary, here is a list of different words you can use to describe emotions.

Anger

annoyed
bitter
enraged
exasperated
furious
heated
impassioned
indignant
irate
irritable
irritated
offended
outraged
resentful
sullen
uptight
affronted
antagonized
chafed
choleric
convulsed
cross
displeased
exacerbated
ferocious
fierce
fiery
fuming
galled
hateful
hot
huffy
ill-tempered
incensed
inflamed
infuriated
irascible
ireful
maddened
nettled
piqued
pissed
pissed off
provoked
put out
raging
riled
sore
splenetic
storming
sulky
vexed
wrathful

Sadness

bereaved
bitter
blue
cheerless
dejected
depressed
despairing
despondent
dismal
disconsolate
distressed
doleful
down
down in dumps
down in the mouth
downcast
forlorn
gloomy
glum
grief-stricken
grieved
heartbroken
heartsick
heavy-hearted
hurting
in doldrums
in grief
in the dumps
languishing
low
low-spirited
lugubrious
melancholy
mournful
morbid
morose
not happy
out of sorts
pensive
pessimistic
somber
sorrowful
sorry
sick at heart
troubled
unhappy
weeping
woebegone
wistful

Happiness

beatitude
blessedness
bliss
cheeriness
cheer
cheerfulness
content
contentment
delight
delectation
delirium
ecstasy
elation
enjoyment
enchantment
eudemonia
euphoria
exhilaration
exuberance
felicity
gaiety
geniality
gladness
glee
good cheer
good humor
good spirits
hilarity
hopefulness
joviality
joy
jubilation
laughter
lightheartedness
merriment
mirth
optimism
paradise
peace of mind
playfulness
pleasure
prosperity
rejoicing
sanctity
seventh heaven
vivacity
well-being

Fear

abhorrence
agitation
alarm
angst
anxiety
apprehension
apprehensiveness
aversion
awe
bête noire
chickenheartedness
concern
cold feet
cold sweat
consternation
cowardice
creeps
despair
dismay
discomposure
disquietude
distress
doubt
dread
faintheartedness
fearfulness
foreboding
fright
funk
horror
jitters
misgiving
nightmare
panic
phobia
presentiment
qualm
recreancy
reverence
revulsion
scare
suspicion
terror
timidity
trembling
trepidation
unease
uneasiness
worry

Lust

animalism
aphrodisia
appetence
appetition
avidity
carnality
concupiscence
covetousness
craving
cupidity
desire
eroticism
excitement
fervor
greed
hunger
itch
lasciviousness
lechery
lewdness
licentiousness
libido
longing
prurience
pruriency
sensuality
salaciousness
salacity
sensualism
thirst
urge
wantonness
weakness
yen

Love

adulation
affection
allegiance
amity
amorousness
amour
appreciation
ardor
ardency
attachment
case
cherishing
crush
delight
devotion
devotedness
emotion
enchantment
enjoyment
fervor
fidelity
flame
fondness
friendship
hankering
idolatry
infatuation
inclination
involvement
like
lust
mad for
partiality
passion
piety
rapture
regard
relish
respect
sentiment
soft spot
tenderness
weakness
worship
yearning
zeal

Sickness

ailing
bedridden
broken down
confined
debilitated
declining
defective
delicate
diseased
disordered
down
feeble
feverish
frail
funny
green
hospitalized
ill
impaired
imperfect
in a bad way
in poor health
infirm
incurable
indisposed
infected
invalid
laid-up
lousy
mean
nauseated
not so hot
peaked
poorly
qualmish
queasy
rickety
rocky
rotten
run down
sick as a dog
suffering
tottering
under medication
under the weather
unhealthy
unwell
wobbly
weak

Health

able-bodied
active
athletic
all right
blooming
bright-eyed
bushy-tailed
chipper
firm
fit
flourishing
fresh
full of life
hale
hardy
healthful
hearty
husky
in fine feather
in fine fettle
in good shape
in the pink
lively
lusty
muscular
normal
physically fit
potent
restored
robust
rosy-cheeked
safe and sound
sound
stout
strong
sturdy
tough
trim
unimpaired
vigorous
virile
well

Nostalgia

fond memories
hearts and flowers
homesickness
longing
pining
reminiscence
remorse
sentimentality
schmaltz
tear-jerker
wistfulness
yearning

Embarrassment

awkwardness
bashfulness
bind
chagrin
clumsiness
complexity
confusion
destitution
difficulty
dilemma
discomfiture
discomposure
disconcertion
distress
egg on face
faux pas
fix
hitch
hot seat
hot water
impecuniosity
indebtedness
indiscretion
inhibition
mess
mistake
mortification
pickle
pinch
plight
poverty
predicament
puzzle
quandary
scrape
self-consciousness
shyness
snag
stew
strait
tangle
timidity
unease
uneasiness

Longing

ambition
aspiration
coveting
craving
fire in the belly
hankering
hunger
hungering
itch
pining
thirst
urge
wish
yearning
yen

Sarcasm

acrimony
aspersion
banter
bitterness
burlesque
causticness
censure
comeback
contempt
corrosiveness
criticism
cut
cynicism
derision
dig
disparagement
flouting
invective
irony
lampooning
mockery
mordancy
put down
raillery
rancor
ridicule
satire
scorn
scoffing
sharpness
sneering
superciliousness
wisecrack

By using one of these words to describe emotions, you’ll eliminate very form your vocabulary and give your writing a more complex feeling that your readers will enjoy!

Which words do you use to describe emotions? Write them in the comments!

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