17 verbs that cut fat from your writing

Why use three words when one strong verb will do the trick?


Verbs are the powerhouse of your sentences; choose them wisely.

Another issue that I see frequently in the work that I edit is weak verbs coupled with nouns that are strong verbs in disguise. Consider the following sentences:

The managing editor made a recommendation to use a new style guide.

The managing editor recommended a new style guide.

In the first sentence, made is a weak verb used with the noun recommendation. But as the second sentence demonstrates, you can simplify and strengthen the sentence by using recommend as the verb.

Here are 17 examples of this coupling, along with the much stronger verb (examples from Analytical Writing for Science and Technology):

• make a decision > decide

• to be expanded > expand

• formulate an argument > argue

• raise an objection > object

• make restitution > resolve

• express resentment > resent

• arrive at a conclusion > conclude

• make a suggestion > suggest

• perform an analysis > analyze

• develop a plan > plan

• exercise conformity > conform

• undertake a development > develop

• find a solution > solve

• make a revision > revise

• provide clarification > clarify

• give encouragement > encourage

• cause a delay > delay

Readers, any other examples to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. Read more of her work at Impertinent Remarks.

This article first appeared on Ragan.com in June 2012.

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