8.8 Using Verbs Effectively

Verbs

Verbs are powerful words that express action clearly and concisely. Some writers change their use of verbs to nouns, which typically results in writing that is wordy, unclear, and sometimes even hard to read.

If you think of your sentence as a machine, then the verb is the engine that makes the machine work. Like machines, sentences can function efficiently or inefficiently, and the use of a strong verb is one way to make them work effectively.

Here are some key principles regarding the effective use of verbs in your sentences. While effective sentences may occasionally deviate from the suggestions in this list, try to follow these guidelines as often as possible:

      • Keep the subject and the verb close together; avoid separating them with words or phrases that could create confusion: He walked…
      • Place the verb near the beginning of the sentence and close to the subject: She soon decided…
      • Prefer active verb constructions over passive ones: She bought groceries instead of Groceries were bought by her. 
      • Avoid ‘to be verbs (am, is, are, was, were, being, been, be)
      • Avoid turning verbs into nouns, or ‘nominalizations’ (see example below)

EXAMPLE:

Original: There will be a reduction in services by our administration (nominalization and passive voice).

Revision: Our administration will reduce services (eliminates nominalization and uses active voice).

 

Use the verb strength chart below (Table 8.8.1) as a guide to help “elevate” weaker verbs to stronger ones.

TABLE 8.8.1 Verb Strength Chart
Verb Forms Verb Strength Examples
Command or Declaration

STRONGER

WEAKER

Maintain the machine properly!

Write the report!

Active indicative

He maintains the machine regularly.

She writes reports frequently.

Active conditional

She would maintain the machine if he would let her.

He would write reports if he had more training.

Gerunds (adding ing) & Infinitives (to ___)

(these do not function as verbs in your sentence; the actual verbs are highlighted in yellow)

While maintaining the machine, he gets quite dirty.

Report writing takes skill.

It takes a lot of time to maintain this machine.

To write effectively, one must get a sense of the audience.

Passive & Passive Conditional

The machine is maintained by him.

It would be maintained by her if…

The report was written by her.

Reports would be written by him if…

Nominalizations (verbs turned into abstract nouns) & Participles (nouns or adjectives that used to be verbs)

Machine maintenance is dirty work.

A well-maintained machine is a thing of beauty.

Written work must be free of errors.


Resume Verbs

When crafting your resume, it’s important to pay special attention to your use of verbs. To describe duties and responsibilities, use clear and powerful active verbs, such as:

      • Developed new apprenticeship program
      • Implemented training courses
      • Provided guidance and advice to new employees

Table 8.8.2 is a helpful list of resume verbs to choose from:

TABLE 8.8.2 Resume Verbs
PEOPLE THINGS IDEAS
Accomplished Built Created
Analyzed Changed Defined
Adapted Constructed Educated
Assembled Designed Illustrated
Conducted Established Implemented
Coordinated Expanded Maintained
Demonstrated Improved Monitored
Directed Increased Organized
Managed Prepared Presented
Organized Programmed Recommended
Supervised Wrote Surveyed

Additional Resources 

*This page borrows from the following source: 
"The Importance of Verbs." Technical Writing Essentials. Source link.

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Technical Writing at LBCC by Will Fleming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.