Top research paper tips: Use action verbs for persuasive writing

Action verbs“I wrote some stuff that was really important.” I have no idea what that means. “I translated a report on toucans in Mexico that was published in the journal Science.” Now, that’s impressive! Choosing active verbs, using precise vocabulary words and employing persuasive techniques in your writing will make your work credible. Writing well follows a lot of the rules of speaking well. One important rule is using strong, active words to get your point across or to persuade your reader to take an action. This article provides a list of action verbs to help you improve your writing.

Choose words that persuade

In “Words And Phrases That Inspire, Motivate, And Persuade At Work,” in March 26, 2013, Jacquelyn Smith reports on power words that inspire, motivate and persuade. “There are certain day-to-day words and phrases that can help you win friends and create rapport in the office; make a persuasive presentation; or conduct a powerful conversation.” The right words show respect, gratitude, commitment and excellence.

Smith’s other advice for using persuasive words:

• Use the word “you” more than “I” to refer directly to the listener or reader and involve him/her.

• Use positive words and phrases to show that you understand or support someone.

• Use cause-and-effect phrases to convince others to agree with you or share your conclusions: “accordingly,” “as a result,” “consequently,” “due to,” “therefore.”

Action verbs are concise and convincing

Use action verbs to compose concise, persuasive, reader-centered documentation. In “What Is an Action Verb?” the Purdue Online Writing Lab explains: “Since concise writing is easier for readers to understand, it is more reader-centered. Because reader-centered writing is generally more persuasive, action verbs are more convincing than non-action verbs.” Some action verbs listed are: “accelerated,” “organized,” “supervised,” “computed,” “implemented,” “administered,” “examined,” “assembled,” “programmed,” “designed” and “surveyed.” A longer list is provided in the Categorized List of Action Verbs.

When writing a persuasive essay, choose descriptive words that convey facts, statistics, historical events and quotes from notable figures. Explain your point of view using clear language that will appeal to the reader’s sensibilities. Don’t tell jokes, demean the audience or ridicule another’s belief system. Action words tell the reader that you have researched your side of the argument and are resolute in it.

Avoid weak words

Writing that is filled with weak words makes your document appear unimportant and lessens its credibility. Popular weak words like “stuff” and “things” are nondescript and provide your reader with little information. A lack of descriptive words makes your reader have to guess at what you’re talking about. Use actual nouns such as “class,”
“car,” “professor,” “company,” “building,” “report,” etc.

Other weak words are: “really,” “very,” “probably,” “perhaps,” “often,” “feel,” “think.” “It was really tall.” What does that mean; compared to what? “The bookcase was six feet tall, six inches taller than all the others.” This gives your reader pertinent information and context. Also avoid boring verbs, such as “is,” “are,” “were,” “went.” Compare: “He went to class” versus “He rode his bike to class.”

Use descriptive language for abstract concepts

Even when describing abstract concepts, such as business terms or artistic themes, the right word can convey specific meaning. In the book Rhetorical Style: The Uses of Language in Persuasion, found on, author Jeanne Fahnestock offers groups of words that are “knowledge processing words like results, evidence, object, model, system, characteristics, quality, features. Many of these stand for mental and textual operations, like research, analysis, investigation, assessment, presentation, comparison, distinction, dedication.” Words like these give abstraction weight and rhetorical force.

What part of your writing can be improved using action verbs?

For more information about writing persuasively with action words, visit’s communication page with resources on journalism, social and ethical issues in communication, written language and grammar and word usage.

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9 replies
  1. Catherine Kitonde says:

    Your information is very encouraging and I can say that you send it to me just at the right time when I desperately needed an intervation on good speaking and writing skills.

    I would wish to follow-up on what you do about having good programmes on documentation. This is because I am motivated by read more on what interests me and put it in documentation like writing articles and term papers.
    What is your advice on this matter?
    Looking forward to reading from you oftenly.

  2. Ralph K. Allen, Jr. says:

    How spectacular the article appears.
    My knowledge was quite in arrears.
    I thought my writing was classy,
    What I read made my style seem brassy
    Thanks to you I have fewer fears.

    Well done,
    Ralph Allen
    Nine Mile Falls, WA

  3. Arnold Simmel says:

    Know a little correct grammar! Know when to use “whom”, look up correct plurals (DON’T treat criteria, phenomena, as singular). KNowing these thingsmay appear old fashioned but exactly to older peope in higher positions they probably still matter.

  4. tsangue douanla says:

    Great article. I am currently writing and sometimes when i reread my work i wonder why the sentences don’t flow as the ideas in my head. now i have a clue. thanks a million.

  5. Hamid Mahdavifar says:

    Thanks for your helpful tips and emails. I am an Iranian student studying English literature and working on my MA thesis paper. I need to use both MLA and APA in my writings. It will be very pleasant in case I receive further helps concerning my field of study.


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