Vague verbs cause fuzzy communication. To ensure your message achieves its purpose, check your verbs. Are they precise, or do they leave room for interpretation?
Please work on the contract.
(What does “work” mean—“write,” “revise,” “cancel,” “review,” “sign,” “renew”?)
Please amend the contract.
(The new verb is much clearer.)
We must do the shingles and then the flashing.
(What does “do” involve?)
We must replace the shingles and repair the flashing.
(The new verbs are precise.)
How can I select strong verbs?
Choose the most precise verb for each situation. That way you will leave your reader with no doubt about what action to take.
How can I avoid weak verbs?
Avoid nominalizations, which turn strong verbs into abstract nouns and pair them with weak verbs.
Note how words ending with the suffixes -tion and -ment offer clues to potential hidden verbs.
|give a presentation
|make a decision
|take into consideration
|provide an analysis
|come to an estimation
|perform a calibration
|give an assignment
|do an assessment
|have a requirement
|offer a description
|perform a review
|bring energy to
How can I emphasize a specific action?
Use command sentences, which tell readers just what to do. These sentences start with a strong, active verb and an implied subject (you).
So instead of writing “The seat should be attached to the chair frame with four long bolts,” use a command sentence: “Attach the seat to the chair frame using four long bolts.”