Give Me a Verb

When you write with nouns and verbs–instead of adjectives and adverbs–you write with power. But all too often, writers undermine their verbs, adding empty phrases or using weaker forms of the verb.

Strong verbs are exciting–strong verbs drive excitement. Want to score big with your verbs? Watch out for:

  • The “ing” constructions. Instead of “we are currently manufacturing…,” try “we currently manufacture….”
  • Passive constructions. Instead of “our precision tools are designed by expert engineers,” try “our expert engineers design precision tools.”
  • Noun phrases. Instead of “we are the developers of the first…,” try “we developed the first…”
  • The word “of.” Instead of “we are engaged in the research of…,” try “we research….”
  • Verb tenses you don’t need. Instead of “your process will have been transformed…,” try “your process will be transform.”
  • “There are” constructions. Instead of “there are three ways to solve this problem…” try “this problem has three solutions….”
  • Negatives. Instead of “never buy a car without test driving it first,” try “always test drive a car before buying it.”

Now a word of caution: When you edit for stronger verbs (or any other improvement), re-read the entire sentence to make sure it still makes sense. You might change “we are currently manufacturing small containers” and find that the sentence now reads “we are currently manufacture small containers”–with the “are” left in by mistake.

This problem occurs so frequently that 250 years ago, Samuel Johnson (the writer of the first well-known English dictionary) stated, “The making [of] a partial change, without due regard to the general structure of the sentence, is a very frequent cause of error in composition.” Or as we might say now: Don’t trade your weak verbs for a nonsense sentence!

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your marketing message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

Verbs That Weaken Your Message

While I often stress that nouns and verbs are more important than adjectives or adverbs in developing a strong marketing message, certain verbs and verb combinations actually have a weakening effect.

Take the verb “can” for example. One of the best pieces of advice I received in my career as a writer was to eliminate the word “can” from writing, as in “We can deliver in 24 hours.” Either you deliver in 24 hours or you don’t. The word “can” adds nothing.

The future tense often results in the same dilution of your message: “We will make sure your project meets all specifications.” The more powerful statement is: “We make sure your project meets all specifications.” The future tense is irrelevant because this action is one you always take.

If you, as the business owner, want to hedge your bets, then promise delivery in 36 hours or retract a statement entirely, but do not insert “can” or “will” as a first line of defense against failure. If you don’t deliver on time, people will notice–and that’s a correct use of the future tense.

The verbs “is” and “are” may also create problems. For example, “We are manufacturers of quality toys.” The more concise and powerful statement is: “We manufacture quality toys.” Look through your documents for the is/of or are/of combination in a sentence and you will likely find a more interesting verb hidden away.

“We are engaged in the manufacturing of quality toys” should be “We manufacture quality toys.” The ing/of combination is another sign of an undermined marketing message.

The phrases “we always try to” or “we always strive to” are almost never needed. Whatever you are trying or striving or aiming to do, be like Nike and just do it.

When you own your actions, your readers credit you with more power, authority, and wisdom than when you pussyfoot around with “can,” “will,” and “try.” Be the authority they want you to be.

TWP Marketing & Technical Communications specializes in communicating strong messages fast. Contact me today.


Add Wow to Your Marketing Message, Part 1: Verb Magic

What a wealth of verb choices English gives us! Start with a sentence like this: “ABC Corporation is the world’s finest manufacturer of industrial robots.” With a little verb magic, it changes into: “ABC Corporation manufactures the world’s finest industrial robots.”

Or start with this: “ABC Corporation has the capability of designing your dream house.” Presto change-o, you have: “ABC Corporation will design your dream house.”

In both cases, the magic verb wand turned a weak noun form into a strong verb: manufacturer versus manufacture; designing versus design.

Stronger verbs also create tighter sentences, for faster delivery of your marketing message.

Search your marketing content for verbs disguised as nouns. Add wow to your message by transforming mumbling nouns into clear-speaking verbs.

Or contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. Magic is our specialty.