Friday, February 20, 2009

Use action verbs to invigorate your writing!

All writing tells a story! And, stories are driven by action. The villain chased the hero. The hero rescued the fair client. The hero won the contract! For this reason, good writing, especially business writing, prefers action verbs!

We can define action verbs by what they are not! They are not being verbs. The being verbs include: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been (or various versions of those forms, such as has been, will be, and is being, among others). When you write for business, when you write to move a reader to action and outcome, avoid those verbs.

Instead, let us prefer, and use, action verbs! Rather than restrict our writing, action verbs free us to use the hundreds of startling and moving words in the English language. We can accomplish a task, satisfy a client, motivate our team, frighten the competition, and change the world!

Yes, we want to use action verbs in our writing, and we must be careful not to turn those beautiful actions into vague and empty ideas. We don’t want to weaken our verbs so that they become the accomplishment of our task, the satisfaction of our customers, the motivation of our team, or the fright of our clients. When we weaken our action verbs by turning them into nouns (nominals), we sap them of their great strength and vitality. We suck the life from them. We, then, write like bureaucrats.

As you think of action verbs and writing, let the newspapers guide you. Newspapers sell stories to their readers, and, in so doing, they use plenty of action verbs, especially in their headlines: Computer technician hits the lottery, DOW gains 500 points, Cognizant wins major contract.

So, the next time you must write an e-mail, a letter, a memo, or a report, tell a story and tell it with action verbs. Then, edit your writing; use characters as subjects and action verbs. Your readers will thank you because they will understand what you are trying to tell them – on the first reading! If they understand your message on the first reading and act on your instructions, you will have saved time and money. You will succeed in your mission. And you employer will reward you!

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