Are your verbs tired?

6 August 2009 

Verbs convey strength – action – movement.  Or at least they should.

Frequently, though, we weaken verbs.  We change a strong verb into its noun form and combine it with a weaker verb, like this:  Please make application for reimbursement to the Finance Department.

Why not say, ‘Please apply for reimbursement to the Finance Department’?


Here are more examples of weak verb forms:

  • give a briefing
  • give a report
  • make a presentation
  • draw a conclusion
  • conduct an analysis
  • do an evaluation. 


And here are their strong forms:  brief, report, present, conclude, analyse, evaluate.


Why do people tend to use ‘anaemic’ verbs?  Perhaps some writers think that it sounds more official – more formal. 


Personally, I find weak verbs tiring, just another weak excuse for wordiness.


By using a strong verb, you cut out two-thirds of the words.  You also convey strength and action.  Focusing on action helps to move the text along.


Publication coach Daphne Grey Grant describes a good strong verb as being ‘like a power-lifter -- it will carry an otherwise unwieldy sentence with ease’. 


So give your ideas a ‘power lift’ by using strong verbs – yet another way to provide platinum level service to your readers.

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