Weak verbs limit your ability to explain the full picture, making it difficult to relay important messages. Powerful verbs provide details and help written assignments, such as creative writing projects, poems, research papers and resumes, come to life. You can replace weak verbs -- helping and being verbs -- with action verbs to make your sentences more engaging. By avoiding the passive voice, verbs stand out as meaningful words in your sentences.
Choose Action Verbs
Opt for action verbs. They offer more insight about what's going on in your story, essay or resume. Replace boring verbs with action verbs -- reflect, contradict, educate, manage, transform, analyze, struggle, challenge, abolish, demand, presume, experience, emerge, display, evoke, organize or encourage. For example, revise the sentence "He became a kind president" to "He transformed into a kind president." Or, rewrite "She is a leader" to "She supervised 12 departments."
Limit Helping and Being Verbs
Replace some of your "being" and "have" verbs -- am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, have, has, had -- with stronger verbs, according to the University of Houston Writing Center. Choose verbs that have specific meanings, so readers aren't left with vague descriptions. Ask yourself, "What is the subject physically or mentally accomplishing?" For example, revise "The puppy has a positive effect on our home" to "The puppy brings happiness to our home." Use the present and past tenses of verbs, instead of the present- and past-progressive tenses, suggests the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. For example, replace "She is thinking" with "She thinks" or "He is studying" with "He studies."
Reduce Prepositional Phrases
Make your verbs more powerful and reduce wordiness by eliminating unnecessary prepositional phrases. This forces you to place more emphasis on important, active verbs. Change the order of the words in your sentence to give your verbs more impact. For example, rewrite "In light of the fact that he was speeding, he got a ticket" to "He was ticketed for speeding." Or rephrase "Under the circumstances in which she lost her ring, she cried" to "She cried when she dropped her ring down the drain."
Avoid the Passive Voice
Don't use the passive voice -- when an action verb follows a "being" verb, but the active verb could stand alone. The passive voice hints at what you're trying to say but doesn't come right out and say it. The passive voice isn't grammatically incorrect, but it's more wordy and makes your sentences sound distant and impersonal. For example, revise "Candy bars should be organized by price" to "The clerk should organize the candy bars by price." Or rewrite "Students are bullied by their peers in some high schools" to "Students bully their peers in some high schools."
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.