How to Understand Action Verbs

1.Understand the purpose of action verbs. An action verb describes something a person does, such as an achievement, in a clear and convincing way. Using action verbs in your resume, your essay, or in business writing will make your sentences more concise and easier to understand.
When using action verbs, it’s important that you choose the right verb for the sentence or phrase. Choosing the wrong action verb can actually make your writing very confusing for your reader and leave them with only a vague idea of what you are trying to describe. Make sure you know exactly what the action verb means before you put it in a sentence or phrase.
Some action verbs, like “illustrate”, “reveal”, and “illuminate” are all other ways to say “show”. But other action verbs, like “analyze”, “compare” and “evaluate” all have different meanings and should be used to fit the context of the phrase or sentence.
A list of action verbs for resumes and professional writing can be found here.

2.Replace weak verbs with action verbs. Often when we compose first drafts in writing, we resort to weak verbs or simple verbs. For example: “show”, “look” “think” “do”. While these are very clear verbs, they may come across as flat or underwhelming, especially when used in a resume to describe your credentials and achievements. Replace weak verbs with action verbs that add punch to your writing and to be as persuasive as possible. Potential employers will appreciate a resume that is concise and showcases your skills in a clear and strong way.
For example, rather than state on your resume: “Showed clients how to use security software”, you can use an action verb: “Demonstrated how to use security software to clients.” Instead of stating: “Ran the dining room service”, rephrase this with action verbs: “Organized and supervised the dining room service.” Rather than note you “put together the team’s schedules and timelines”, use action verbs to make the sentence more specific by noting you “coordinated the team’s schedules and timelines” or you “created the team’s schedules and timelines.”

3.Note how action verbs can replace the passive voice. The passive voice is when the subject in a sentence is not the doer or the actor (as in the active voice) but is being acted upon. Often, the passive voice uses “was” and “had” in front of a weak verb. The subject and object are also flipped in a passive sentence, for example: “The road was crossed by the chicken”, rather than “The chicken crossed the road.” Though there is nothing grammatically incorrect about the passive voice, using the active voice, with action verbs, can make your sentences stronger and more direct.
For example, a sentence in the passive voice would be: “A poll on how many people use private healthcare in my neighborhood was conducted by me for my year end project.”
If this sentence is adjusted to the active voice, with action verbs, it would be: “For my year end project, I created and prepared a poll of private healthcare use in my neighbourhood.”

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