I would like to get help to apply different flavors to the action "annoy someone". Please consider the below excerpt.

Her mother spoke again, Aarii looked irritated,
"Why should I get engaged because Bela did? Yes ... I will one day mom ... Okay fine .. Yes, the hotel car will drop me... Bye!
She kept her phone on the bed, and looked ______.

I figured it out the below set of words implies the meaning of irritated. How ever I need some help to figure it out further what special flavor does these words add to the sentence. Please find below the set of words along with the their meanings that found in dictionary.

Exasperate = irritate intensely; infuriate.
Exacerbate = make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse.
Vex = make (someone) feel annoyed, frustrated, or worried, esp. with trivial matters.
Nettle = irritate or annoy (someone).
Persecute = harass or annoy (someone) persistently.

  • 1
    Which dictionary are you using? Your definitions are perfunctory at best.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 22, 2012 at 16:50
  • @AndrewLeach: I am using Dictionary software which comes with Lion OSX. I tried to down load Oxford or Cambridge dictionary software for Lion. Seems to be they are not available. Do you have any suggestions?
    – Hanu
    Dec 22, 2012 at 17:17
  • There are lots of online dictionaries, like ODO and Cambridge, MW and Macmillan. All of these have usage examples which expand on the bald definitions -- although the definitions are better than your software. See OneLook which brings them all together.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 22, 2012 at 17:27
  • @AndrewLeach: Your suggestions are very much valid and valuable. I am really sorry to admit that my internet speed is a bit slow. So dictionary softwares works better than any online dictionary. Yes I will make good use of those online dictionaries.
    – Hanu
    Dec 22, 2012 at 17:56
  • I can't wait till English for Language Learners gets enough committed users to get them to give me all the subtleties of these words...
    – SF.
    Dec 24, 2012 at 0:03

4 Answers 4


I find your punctuation troubling, and your use of the word "looked" twice, unwise. I suggest the following:

When her mother spoke again, Aarii became irritated.

"Why should I get engaged just because Bela did? Yes, mom, I will one day. Okay, fine. Yes, the hotel car will drop me off. Bye."

She threw her phone to the bed, feeling vexed.[or exasperated, or piqued, or annoyed]

Either vexed or annoyed seems appropriate. Exasperated denotes strong emotion, which Aarii may be feeling at the time, given her mother's insistence she get engaged. Piqued is an interesting word, denoting vexation caused by a perceived slight or indignity or wounded pride. It's your call, however.


You cannot exacerbate a person, only a situation.

Persecute is simply wrong.

The normal verb here is just bother, which you do not seem to have listed. That is the one you should be using.

Vex and nettle have more specific, or intensifying, or regionalizing, uses.


Irk would work in that instance.

From OED -

irk, v.

To grow weary or tired; to feel vexed, ‘bothered’ or disgusted; to feel it burdensome, to be loath (to do something).

She threw her phone to the bed, feeling irked.

But I also like the suggestion above of pique, but I'd reword the sentence thus -

She threw her phone onto the bed, in a fit of pique.

I also like glower -

Glower, v

To look angrily or crossly; to scowl.

She glowered and threw her phone to the bed.


Aside from word choice, I see major issues with the passage. I think instead of searching for the perfect single word to show varying forms of irritation (which you would doubtless plan to switch out to avoid repetition, yes?) you should start considering such rules as

· Show, don't tell!


· Tell the story from the character's point of view.

Instead of telling the reader directly that Aarii's irritated, you should trust them to be a little more perspective; throw more expressive hints in dialogue, if helpful; and do your best to show through action and thoughts. Thus I think you could do worse, in your example, than making these few changes (this presumes that we have previously set the stage for Aarii talking on the phone with her mother):

"Maybe you should think about getting engaged. Maybe even before your poor mother dies of old age, hmm?"

"Why should I get engaged? Because Bela did? I will when I'm ready, Mom."

"I know, my little shrimp-cake. Now I want you to get some sleep, and make sure that the hotel drops you--"

"Yes, of course the hotel car will drop me off. Goodbye!" Aarii slammed the receiver so hard that the phone bounced off the bed. She stared out at the falling snow [or picked her nose, or whatever] as the busy signal bleated up at her, then eventually fell silent. No way would she get engaged to Shloim, the toad, just to keep up with her overachieving baby sister!

This bit of asinine foolery (I'm incapable of better at the mo due to being a little woozy, sorry) hopefully serves to illustrate a couple of points. First, you can show irritation through such helpful measures as slamming phones, punched faces, bowling balls heaved through mirrors and the like. You've already got Aarii throwing the phone on the bed; that plus annoyed phrasings in the dialogue can work quite well enough to get the irritation across. You don't need to telegraph irritation, then follow up to explicitly, tritely beat the reader over the head with it.

Second, since you seem to be telling the story from Aarii's point of view, you should try to shorten the narrative distance and get the reader right inside Aarii's head, instead of narrating things as if you were observing Aarii from within the room. You do this by eliminating "telling" statements that have the effect of standing the reader near but still away from Aarii in the room; a common mistake is to use such phrases as "Aarii said, eyes blazing" (since Aarii can't see herself). Instead, just present things directly and as Aarii would experience them. For example, since Aarii can hear her mother's voice, it places the reader as a third-party observer outside of Aarii when you suppress the mother's words; isn't it better to simply present what Aarii hears, along with the rest of it? Let the reader be Aarii, as much as possible. This will also give you more chances to present useful contextual information that will help explain just what emotions Aarii's feeling, and why.

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