Stamp Out Wimpy Verbs

29 Nov 2007


Any good writer will tell you to build your sentences on verbs. It’s not nouns or adverbs or adjectives that make your prose shine. When it comes to great writing, the verb is the powerhouse.

OK, so write with verbs. That sounds easy enough. But as with all things writing, wrapping your sentences around verbs can be more difficult than you think. To make it even more difficult, not all verbs are created equal. Some verbs are just plain wimpy. And for hard-hitting copy, you need hard-hitting verbs.

Here are a few limp verbs that should send your editor alarm bells ringing:

Let. If I had a penny for every time I saw this one. Let us serve you with our 100 years of experience at financial planning, blah, blah, blah. Blech. You can do better than that. Try instead: From our first meeting, we pull from over 100 years of financial experience to build your retirement plan.

Allow. Just like let, allow is a lazy verb. It’s easy to write and easy to ignore.

Offer (or Provide). Yes, you’ll probably have offer in your copy somewhere, and that’s fine. But be aware. Offer can get boring, fast.

Here’s an example with allow and offer in the same sentence: We offer mobile, onsite services that allow us to clean and detail your vehicle anywhere — from your home to your office.

Try instead: With our mobile, onsite services, we’ll clean and detail your vehicle anywhere — from your home to your office.

To Be. Am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been. Use too many forms of the “to be” verb, and you are sure to put your readers to sleep. Of course, you do need some of these. But instead of “We are an award-winning establishment that works for you 24-7. Do: “At our award-winning establishment, we work for you 24-7.”

Have. “We have more than 30 stores to serve you.” Okay, fine. Not a terrible sentence, but it isn’t exactly making me jump out of my seat either. How about: “Find your next widget at your choice of over 30 locations.”

Am I saying to avoid this list of verbs at all costs? Of course not. They are part of the English language, and they have their place. But if you find yourself using one, take another look at your sentence. Chances are, there is a more powerful verb waiting to get out.

The Writers For Hire, Inc. 
At The Writers For Hire, you are hiring not just one copywriter, but a streamlined team of experienced writing professionals. We've perfected our unique cooperative writing model, so you'll have the advantage of receiving a fine-tuned final draft that has been reviewed by several editors.

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