The best way to most immediately see the biggest improvement in your writing is to choose higher quality verbs.
First, let’s find out whether you’re verb-impaired. Then, we’ll help you become verb-talented.
Print a hard copy of a document you wrote, and circle all the verbs. Read them aloud as a list. You may realize without prompting that they’re generic or repetitive. Even worse, your verb choices may be alienating readers.
To objectively evaluate the strength of your verbs, ask yourself the following questions and compare with the following lists.
1. Are my verbs so precise that they aren’t easily switched out for synonyms?
2. Do they evoke one of the five senses? Can I picture, feel or hear them?
3. Do they have motion?
4. Or are they …
… wimpy ?
- Is, was, be, been
- Serves to (+ another verb)
… overused tech verbs? (fine to use, but other verbs may be more descriptive and precise)
Polysyllabic for no good reason?
Initiate (instead try start), utilize (use), educate (teach), designate (name), …
Or are they active and precise?
Before ending this post with a list of superhero verbs suitable for business writing, may I suggest you begin harvesting your own favorites from an article or book that you recently enjoyed. My favorite verb sources are National Geographic and Sports Illustrated magazines.
Second, try capturing verbs in a moment of activity (during a demo, while reading about audience’s workflow, when listening to an interview), rather than retroactively conjuring them after you’ve returned to your desk.
If I haven’t convinced you yet that college verbs (often derived from Latin) aren’t as good as plain verbs (often derived from Anglo-Saxon), ask yourself whether this time-honored saying would be with us today had it been stated less plainly.
Memorable and to the point: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Not: “Quotidian consumption of pomaceous comestibles obviates the necessity of an interlocution with an Aesculapian professional.”
Ring in the new year by becoming a verb warrior. Challenge yourself to choose verbs well.
|Strong one-syllable verbs
SEND, MATCH, BUILD, RAISE, LOCK, FIND, BLUR, FRET, WIN, EARN, GAIN, SHOW, SOLVE, BLOCK, LOOK , STEM, POST, PACK, TALK, SAIL, FLIP, PUSH, CARE, TEACH, SACK, STRIP, BET, PLAY, END, HIDE, SWAY, STAND, LAG, SCRUB, CUT, FORM, BIND, LEAK, BELCH, SPEW, CRACK, HEAR, MEET, NEED, TURN, BUZZ, VIEW, SPEAK, FIT, STORE , MATCH , BREATHE, HOP, SQUELCH, PUT , FLY, RAISE, CHECK, GRADE , SCARE, RACE, FUME,WEIGH, FUEL, BUY, STOP, HOP, SPARK, FLOW, TRUST, WANE, LAND, ROLL, CHOKE, JOIN, CLEAN, SMOKE, CAKE, EDGE, SPEND, RATE, SAVE, STITCH, TRIM, SWIM, FEAR, DIG, ADD, SING, BOOK, BLEND, STIR, MIX, SHARE, DULL, SMOOTH, SLICE, RUN, HOLD, CLIMB …
Two-syllable but specific
PROTECT, MEASURE, LEAPFROG, DOUBLE, TRIPLE, STUMBLE, COLLIDE, MANAGE, ABSORB, DICTATE, COLLECT, COMPLETE, SUFFER, QUESTION, ADVANCE, REPEAT, BOTHER, REVEAL, FORESEE, TOPPLE, WELCOME, BEFRIEND, COMPLETE, INDICT, PREFER, DECIDE, EVOLVE, LISTEN, REFLECT, CONSTRAIN, TIDY, PRACTICE, WONDER, WORRY, DONATE, EXTRACT, REPLACE, RESCUE, EXCEL, RELEASE, CENTER, PRE-EMPT, HURRY, COLLATE, REPEL, OFFER, INSPIRE, ATTRACT, STUDY, RETURN …
(The rest of our list is part of our workshop called “Being Your Own Best Editor.”)
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