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Verbs

Verbs are the most important part of the sentence.

They move the sentence forward

Verbs help the reader move from the beginning of the sentence to the end. They drive movement between sentences. Imagine the reader skipping from verb to verb as they read.

Skipping Photo by Sammie Chaffin

What readers expect

Verbs instead of zombie nouns

Readers expect the main actions of the sentence to be expressed as verbs (not zombie nouns). Change zombie nouns back into verbs!

Inhibition of glucose utilization is lethal.

Inhibiting the body's ability to use glucose is lethal.

The transport of sugar monomers by several yeasts occurs by facilitated diffusion.

Several yeasts transport sugar monomers by facilitated diffusion.

A recent study reported only a limited effect of these publication guidelines on reporting practices.

These publication guidelines hardly affect reporting practices.

Precise verbs

Readers expect verbs to be clear and precise. Stay away from empty verbs like make, do, has, is, shows, and regards because they usually hide a zombie noun. Clear and precise verbs look like this:

clear verbs

assert postulate consider invoke eliminate radiate isolate restore permeate propel elongate interact cease constrain extend circulate activate scatter simplify generalize derive construct depict speculate investigate assess characterize guide extrapolate infer attribute transmit migrate deteriorate absorb interlock invade exude

How to change empty verbs into precise verbs

The major benefit of this intervention is the fast resumption of oral intake that patients generally experience.

This intervention allows patients to quickly resume oral intake.

In this paper, we provide an overview of…

In this paper, we review...

Removal of the ions was effected by

The ions were removed from the plasma... OR
We removed the ions from the plasma...

Subject and verb close together

Readers expect the verb immediately after the subject. They tend to skip over the information between the subject and the verb. If you want the reader to read everything, move the verb close to the subject, like this:

Our model of female TMT appointments as catalysts that cause shifts in TMT cognitions, which, in turn, redirect knowledge-related strategic renewal from a buying to a building approach, is a novel effort at advancing research on women at upper echelons to examine time-dependent, within-firm mechanisms linking women in upper echelons and firm outcome.

In our model, female TMT appointments shift TMT cognitions, which, in turn, redirect knowledge-related strategic renewal from a buying to a building approach. Our model advances research on women at upper echelons and examines time-dependent, within-firm mechanisms linking women in upper echelons and firm outcome.

Active voice

Readers expect verbs to be in the active voice whenever possible. The active voice is usually more concise and is processed more quickly (= easier to read). Active voice must be used when taking responsibility for a decision. For example:

We chose this method because…

Active and passive voice are both tools that you need

Passive voice can be used when the subject is unknown or unimportant as long as the sentence remains clear.

Either can be used to create parallelism or ensure that given information is found in the beginning of the sentence.

Choose passive voice consciously and wisely.

How important are verbs?

On a scale of 1-10, they are a 9: very important! Verbs are the lifeblood of your text. Are you having trouble using verbs wisely? Ask for help!

Active Voice
Zombie Nouns
Reader Expectations