Active verbs make speaking and writing clear, efficient, and more interesting. Active verbs are usually easier to understand, which is important for international audiences.
|Wordy and inactive:||Better:|
|They made a commitment.||They committed. (or They committed to…)|
|They reached a decision.||They decided.|
|The program has ceased to operate.||The program ended.|
|Her cake was a fabulous creation.||Her cake was fabulous.|
|She wanted to submit an application.||She wanted to apply.|
Try This: Can you make these sentences shorter and clearer by activating the verbs? (Answers follow.)
- We decided to go ahead and acquire that dog.
- The dog refused to listen to my commands.
- The owners arrived at a decision to try to adopt him out.
- I tried to design the ad so that it would attract attention.
- A man sent me a text message asking if he could see the dog on Saturday.
- I sent a reply that Sunday would be better.
- Unfortunately, by the time Sunday rolled around, the dog had taken himself off.
- The man pulled up to the curb in his car, looking to buy the dog.
- He carried out an investigation into the dog’s whereabouts.
- That dog never did come back.
There is no single right answer (yours may be better), but these examples are shorter, more active, and definitely more interesting:
- We adopted the dog. (or We decided to adopt the dog.)
- The dog ignored me. (or The dog ignored my commands.)
- The owners put him up for adoption. (or The owners decided to put him up for adoption.)
- I designed the ad to attract attention.
- A man asked if he could see the dog on Saturday. (Unless the texting part is important, it can be deleted.)
- I asked if he could come on Sunday instead.
- Unfortunately, the dog disappeared on Saturday.
- The man arrived, ready to buy the dog. (Unless it’s important that he arrived in a car, that detail is unnecessary wordiness.)
- He searched for the dog.
- The dog never returned.