300 Days of Better Writing

March 5, 2010

Replace weak verbs with action verbs

Filed under: WritingExcellence — preciseedit @ 7:13 pm

First, let’s define our terms. An action verb represents an action that can be viewed or performed. A weak verb is, simply, the opposite of an action verb. 

Examples of action verbs include perform, hold, state, create, and represent. Examples of weak verbs include can, seem, exist, and feel [the mental activity]. All to be verbs are weak verbs, especially when followed by an –ing verb. These include is, am, are, were, and was

To strengthen your writing, revise your sentences to replace weak verbs with action verbs. This is especially important when the main verb is weak, as in this sentence. 

We can use the second sentence above as an example.

Weak verb use: “An action verb is a verb that represents an action.”
Action verb use: “An action verb represents an action.”

This concept confuses many people, so I’ll provide another example.

Weak verb use: “The novelist was considering writing a new book in his series.” (“was considering”)
Action verb use: “The novelist considered writing a new book in his series.” (“considered”)

Sentences using action verbs state the information directly and concisely, and they give the reader a mental image, which makes them more engaging.

You won’t be able to do this with every sentence, nor should you. However, be aware of how frequently you use weak verbs and limit them to the extent possible.

(This is the tip for day 50 in 300 Days of Better Writing.)


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