Strong verbs for energetic, forceful writing

November 02, 2010 | Writing

Business writing tends to be mundane for a multitude of reasons, including a lack of attention to using strong verbs.

Verbs are action words and they are the driving force of good writing. People look for action. They are moved by action. Strong verbs – as opposed to weak verbs – are action words that infuse your copy with energy and force.

Mostly, we simply don’t pay attention to making sure our verbs are muscular and give our writing strength and distinction. The good news is the effort required is fairly minimal.

Let’s examine a few examples of sentences with weak verbs replaced by strong verbs.

Acquisition-happy Oracle has been buying up its competition.
Acquisition-happy Oracle has been devouring its competition.

The project’s cost ran out of control.
The project’s cost spiraled out of control.

Google easily beat the analysts tepid profit estimates.
Google crushed the analysts tepid profit estimates.

There is nothing energetic or vivid about the first example of each sentence.

It crucial, of course, that we use verbs commensurate with the reference. We would sound silly saying that Google “crushed” analysts profit estimates if they outdistanced them by a few percentage points. Costs haven’t “spiraled” out of control unless they have cartwheeled way beyond budget.

So take care in using strong verbs, but be certain to use them.