Write for Business - Blog

UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    Verbs with Verve

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    Verbs are the words that give your nouns something to do. But just because they move things along doesn't mean all verbs are exciting. Some verbs that include a form of "be," (e.g., is kept, are taken, were heard) are passive - they suggest that something is merely happening to the subject and, as a consequence, are pretty dull. Active verbs, on the other hand, make the subject actually do something: walk, talk, fly, or crash. The right verbs are specific and engaging, and they will help you produce lively writing.

    Let's look at the difference an active verb can make in this sentence: The Employee of the Year award was given to George. Good for George, but the sentence is dull. Since George is really the focus here, let's make him the subject and match that subject to an action verb - George received the Employee of the Year award. Now George becomes an active participant, and the action gives the sentence a little more zing.

    Use a thesaurus to find specific verbs for a general action. For example, if you look up "walk" in a thesaurus, you will likely find choices such as amble, stroll, stride, hike, totter, and saunter. Note how each verb presents a different, precise picture. In our example, George may also have accepted, collected, picked up, acknowledged, or even earned his award. Each verb presents a slightly different action.

    Of course, there is also a place for passive verbs, especially in formal writing, such as board meeting minutes. For most writing, however, use active verbs to involve your reader and move your writing from bland to engaging.

    You can learn more about active verbs on pages 246-247 in Write for Business, just one of the many helpful business writing materials from UpWrite Press.

    - Joyce Lee