How to Use Action Verbs
If you’re trying to add some punch to your resume, or looking to spruce up some lackluster sentences, go for action verbs. Action verbs are active, positive verbs that keep your reader engaged and your potential employer interested in your resume.
Understanding Action Verbs
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 .
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.”
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 neighborhood.”
Using Action Verbs
Apply action verbs to your resume.Start by making a list of your skills and abilities in simple language, with simple verbs. Read over the list and replace the verbs with action verbs. You can also adjust the phrases so the language is concise and clear.
- For example, your list of skills and abilities for a customer service position at a retailer might be: “dealt with customers on a daily basis, ran the customer service desk, completed returns and sales transactions, worked with other customer service representatives, talked to my supervisor to keep the customer desk going, counted my till at the end of my shift.”
- If you rephrase this list using action verbs, it may look like: “responded to the needs of customers and provided excellent customer service, coordinated the customer service desk with the assistance of my supervisor, processed returns and sales transactions, communicated well with other customer service representatives, and balanced a cash float.”
Use skill specific action verbs.If you want to do revise your entire resume so it contains action verbs, you will need to use skill specific verbs to describe different skills. You will describe your communication skills differently than your creative skills and you will need to use different action verbs for each skill set.
- To describe your communication skills, use action verbs like “interpreted”, “coordinated”, “negotiated”, “clarified”, and “advocated”.
- To describe your creative skills, use action verbs like “composed”, “created”, “established”, “presented”, and “introduced”.
- To describe your service skills, use action verbs like “trained”, “assisted”, “facilitated”, “performed”, and “volunteered”.
- To describe your management and leadership skills, use action verbs like “achieved”, “managed”, “attained”, “implemented”, “motivated”, “organized”, and “supervised”.
- To describe your research skills, use action verbs like “identified”, “examined”, “analyzed”, “collected”, “measured”, and “surveyed”.
- To describe your technical skills, use action verbs like “designed”, “programmed”, “assembled”, “calculated”, and “engineered”.
Adjust passive language with action verbs.If you are trying to use action verbs in an essay or a piece of professional writing, you will need to shift any passive language and passive verbs to include active language and action verbs. Do this by going through your writing and identifying instances of the passive voice. Then, consider how you can shift the language to the active voice. Pay attention to the use of “was”, “had” and “has been” in your writing. These are often signs of the passive voice and need to be adjusted to the active voice.
- For example, a paragraph 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. This meant I was interviewing my neighbors in their homes. A spreadsheet was used to keep track of the information collected. The due date for my project was met and I was awarded an A.”
- The same paragraph adjusted to the active voice would be: “For my year end project, I created and prepared a poll of private healthcare use in my neighborhood. I interviewed my neighbors in their homes and created a spreadsheet to record and analyze the data. I completed the project by the due date and achieved an A.”
- The second version in the active voice is clear and concise. It uses action verbs that are not too complicated or difficult, but still gets the point across to the reader.
QuestionWould it be correct to say, "She has been working since morning"?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, that sentence is correctly phrased, but it would be better to say something like, "She has been working all day."Thanks!
QuestionIs this sentence correct: "How is you today?"wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo. It should be "How are you today?"Thanks!
Video: English Grammar: Action Verbs
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