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how to use essay as a verb

Verbs: Types of Verbs, Definition and Examples

Verbs title

Think of all the actions you can perform. You can walk , run , and dance . You can speak , read , and write .

All of these are verbs —words that tell us what the subject of a sentence is doing.

Verbs are one of the most important parts of speech. In fact, they’re the only word that every complete sentence needs to include.

You can build a grammatically complete sentence without any nouns or adjectives , but no matter what, you need a verb.

If you want your writing to be clear and effective, you need to understand the different types of verbs and how they work.

This article will give you a complete guide to verbs to help you improve your writing.

What Is a Verb: A Simple Explanation

A verb is a word that denotes action or a state of being.

As a part of speech in grammar, a verb is the action in the sentence. Along with a noun, the verb is a critical component of a complete sentence. Somebody (noun) does something (verb).

The definition of a verb

In grammar, the doer is the subject, and the action is the predicate (the part of the sentence containing the verb and describing the subject).

Those two elements form a complete sentence: “Jim grins .”

You may want more information in your sentence, like an object: “Jim grins at Sally .”

You may add subordinate clauses : “Jim grins at Sally when she fumbles the ball .”

However complex your sentence, the verb is the action. It tells you what the subject is doing, feeling, or being.

How to Use Verbs in Writing

You use verbs every day when you talk and write. Because verbs denote action, they move every story forward.

In writing, your verb choice delivers a punch to your prose.

Using the right verb also increases readability for your audience because you don’t need to lengthen the sentence by describing the action with extra modifiers. The verb does all the work.

Here are our three favorite tips for how to use verbs well in your writing.

Tip #1: Don’t Hide Your Verbs

Don't hide your verbs

Many writers unintentionally hide their verbs by turning them into nouns accompanied by a weak verb.

Take these two sentences:

  • "We will decide tomorrow.”
  • “We will make a decision tomorrow.”

The first sentence is shorter and more direct. In the second sentence, the strong verb decide is changed into the weaker make , which dilutes the meaning.

How can you spot hidden verbs? Look for words ending in -ment , -tion , -sion , and -ance .

Also, if you’ve used weak verbs like give , have , make , reach , and take , this could be a sign of a hidden verb.

Reading through your whole document to find weak verbs takes time. ProWritingAid automatically highlights your hidden verbs so you can change them with a single click.

Tip #2: Avoid Passive Verbs

Avoid passive verbs

You could say “The ball was thrown by me” or “I threw the ball,” and both sentences mean the same thing.

However, it’s normally better to convey action and grab your reader’s attention, rather than using passive verbs like is , has , and was .

Rewording your sentences to favor active verbs instead of passive verbs will strengthen your writing.

For example, you can use a verb instead of an adjective:

  • Original Sentence: He is asleep under the tree.
  • Improved Sentence: He sleeps under the tree.

The verb sleeps is more powerful than the passive version is asleep .

Similarly, you can use a verb instead of a noun:

  • Original Sentence: She was a good writer .
  • Improved Sentence: She wrote well.

Once again, the verb wrote is more powerful than the passive version was a writer , because it conveys movement and action.

Letting active verbs do the heavy lifting in your sentence will help you convey your point in a strong and concise way.

Tip #3: Choose Specific Verbs Instead of Modifying Weak Verbs

Choose specific verbs

Some verbs in the English language are more descriptive and precise than others.

For example, the word whispered conveys more information than the word said , because it implies adverbs like quietly or furtively .

Similarly, the verb sprint conveys more information than move , because it tells the reader the specific type of movement being described.

There’s nothing wrong with using a generic verb like said , but if you want to provide more information, it’s almost always better to use a specific verb instead of modifying a weak verb.

Sometimes, this rule means replacing a generic verb and its adverb with a stronger, more specific verb. Consider the following example:

Original Sentence: She walked slowly up the stairs.

Improved Sentence: She trudged up the stairs.

Trudged is more concise and evocative than walked slowly .

Other times, this rule can also mean replacing a generic verb and a modifying phrase with a stronger verb.

  • Original Sentence: He smiled in a mean way at the new kid in class.
  • Improved Sentence: He sneered at the new kid in class.

Sneered is a more interesting way to say smiled in a mean way and will make your writing more powerful.

Keep in mind it's okay to use phrasal verbs, which are verbs that consist of multiple words, such as break down and let go .

There's a difference between using a phrasal verb and modifying a generic verb.

Choosing the right verb can help you say a lot more with fewer words.

A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.

Types of Verbs

There are three main types of verbs. Familiarity with verb types will help you understand when to use each type and when to avoid a verb type.

The three verb types are:

  • Action verbs (which can be transitive or intransitive )
  • Modal or helping verbs
  • Linking verbs

Let’s take a closer look at each of these verb types and how they function in a sentence.

Action Verb: Definition & Examples

When a person or thing is doing something, that’s an action verb.

Action verbs are the best ones to use in your writing to move your story forward and create tension .

Action verbs can also clarify articles and papers by indicating direct action.

Action verbs are split into two categories: transitive verbs and intransitive verbs.

1) Transitive Verbs

Transitive vs intransitive verbs

A transitive verb is always followed by a noun that receives the action, called the direct object.

Consider the sentence “I patted my dog’s head.”

The transitive verb is “patted,” and the noun that’s receiving this action is “my dog’s head,” which is the direct object of the action verb.

Sometimes an object can be indirect, such as when you’re expressing to whom the action is being done.

Consider the sentence “Mary gave Angelina a kiss on the cheek.”

The verb is “gave,” and the direct object was “a kiss.” To whom it happened was Angelina, the indirect object of the sentence.

Transitive verbs act on direct and indirect objects. Something or someone always gets affected by this type of verb.

2) Intransitive Verbs

When an action verb has no direct object, it’s called an intransitive verb. An adverb or adverb phrase can follow intransitive verbs, but there will not be a direct object.

Consider the sentence “Matthew runs away quickly.”

The verb is runs , and the phrase “away quickly” tells us more about the verb, but there is no object in the sentence to receive the action. Therefore, runs is an intransitive verb.

An easy way to tell the difference between a transitive and an intransitive verb is to ask the question, “Who or what is receiving the action from this verb?”

  • If you can name a noun that’s on the receiving end, it’s a transitive verb.
  • If you can’t name a noun, whether a direct or indirect object, then the verb is intransitive.

Either way, transitive or intransitive, active verbs lend immediacy to your sentence, drawing in the reader.

Auxiliary Verb: Definition & Examples

An auxiliary verb, also called a helping verb, modifies the action in the main verb.

Auxiliary verbs help readers to understand the main verb. They typically change the mood or tense of the main verb.

Auxiliary verbs provide hints related to the possibility of something happening (can, should, would, etc.) or time (has, did, was, etc.).

When you add auxiliary verbs to your sentence, you create verb phrases.

Auxiliary verb examples:

  • Laura is (helping verb) writing (main action verb) her life story.
  • Her story might (helping verb) be (main verb) embarrassing for some of her friends.

The following verbs always function as auxiliary verbs or helping verbs:

In addition, you can have auxiliary verbs comprising the forms of to be , to do , and to have .

Keep in mind that the following words can also serve as linking verbs (which we’ll discuss next):

Examples of be, do, have helping verbs in sentences:

  • Juliet is changing trains at the station.
  • Daniel had eaten everything on his plate.
  • Every cyclist does dismount at the crossing.

Linking Verb: Definition & Examples

Common linking verbs

A linking verb connects the subject of your sentence to a noun or adjective that describes your subject. The noun or adjective is called the “subject complement.”

Here are some examples:

  • My daughter is a marketing major.
  • We are your new neighbors.

The most common linking verb can be found in the various forms of to be ( am , are , is , was , were , etc.). These are also called stative verbs, because they describe a state of being.

To become and to seem are always linking verbs. The following verbs, however, can sometimes be linking verbs and other times be action verbs:

  • To continue

Here is an example of the difference between a linking verb and an action verb.

Linking: The seafood smelled off. (The linking verb smelled links seafood to off )

Action: I smelled the seafood before eating. (The action verb refers to the action of smelling)

Why Are Verbs Important?

Verbs are action words that engage your reader and help them picture what's happening in your writing.

Choosing the right verb can elicit an emotional response, whether you're writing academic essays or narrative fiction .

Verbs in Academic Writing

Academic writing tends to stick to more formal writing styles than fiction writing, but you still want to keep your reader’s interest and communicate your points clearly.

Whether you’re a student writing essays for class, or a professional researcher trying to publish a paper, using strong action verbs will improve your academic writing.

Look for weak verbs in your writing and try to replace them with precise and dynamic verbs.

Consider the following examples of verb choices in academic writing.

  • Original Sentence: “A recent psychological study makes it clear that children are more likely to respond to positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement.”

Improved Sentence: “A recent psychological study demonstrates that children are more likely to respond to positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement.”

Original Sentence: “This result is an example of how a single night of sleep loss can have long-term impacts on the brain.”

Improved Sentence: “This result illustrates how a single night of sleep loss can have long-term impacts on the brain.”

Original Sentence: “Her findings are in agreement with the conclusions I’ve presented in this paper.”

  • Improved Sentence: “Her findings support the conclusions I’ve presented in this paper.”

If you are new to thinking about verb use, here’s a list of 100 strong English verbs you can use to improve your essays, papers, and articles:

  • Contemplate
  • Corroborate
  • Demonstrate
  • Hypothesize
  • Misconstrue
  • Substantiate

Verbs in Fiction Writing

Fiction writers use verbs with exactitude to prompt reader engagement, thereby sparking emotions and a desire to keep reading.

Dull verbs make for lackluster reading. Finding the right verb for your character’s action brings your story to life.

You might have heard the classic writing advice “Show, don’t tell.” Using strong verbs is a great way to show the reader what’s happening clearly and concisely.

Consider the following examples of verb choice in fiction writing.

  • Original Sentence: “Her long skirt was blown outward as she fell through the air.”
  • Improved Sentence: “Her long skirt ballooned outward as she fell through the air.”
  • Original Sentence: “The sound of his father’s last words was still running through his mind.”
  • Improved Sentence: “The sound of his father’s last words reverberated through his mind.”
  • Original Sentence: “The man in the black hat walked into the room.”
  • Improved Sentence: “The man in the black hat charged into the room.”

If you want a good starting point for stronger verbs to use, here’s a list of 100 strong verbs in English that you can use for fiction writing:

  • Reverberate

Using ProWritingAid to Strengthen Your Verbs

It’s easy to skip over weak verbs in your writing when you’re self-editing.

But, taking time to focus directly on your verbs helps ensure you’re always using the best word for your sentence.

ProWritingAid’s Thesaurus Report highlights all the verbs in your writing so you can get an overview of the strength and specificity of your word choices throughout your document.

Hover over a verb to see synonyms and click to replace weak verbs in your text with more powerful alternatives.

ProWritingAid suggesting a stronger verb than walked

Conclusion on Verbs

There you have it: our complete guide to verbs.

Here’s a quick recap of everything we’ve discussed.

Increase the power of your writing by following these three tips:

  • Don’t hide your verbs
  • Avoid passive verbs
  • Choose specific verbs instead of modifying weak verbs

Action verbs (such as run, jump, and dance)

Modal or helping verbs (such as can, was, and has)

Linking verbs (such as to look, to feel, and to taste)

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, specific verbs spark emotions in your readers and keep them engrossed in your writing.

We hope this article helps you choose strong verbs to create powerful, professional prose.

Take your writing to the next level:

20 Editing Tips From Professional Writers

20 Editing Tips From Professional Writers

Whether you are writing a novel, essay, article, or email, good writing is an essential part of communicating your ideas., this guide contains the 20 most important writing tips and techniques from a wide range of professional writers., common questions about verbs: types of verbs, definition and examples, can i use a gerund after "allows", which version of the verb should be used with "every", what verb form should you use after "consider" and "imagine" infinitive or gerund, do you need to include "started to" in a sentence, should you use "going to" or "will", why should you not overuse words like "believe" and "think", why is "do + verb" not a great construct, what is a split infinitive and when should you avoid using one, why should you not overuse "knew", why should you not overuse "feel", why should you not overuse "could", why shouldn't i write "start to" or "begin to", what are modal verbs how do you use them, why should i use "went" instead of "decided to go", when can you omit "in order" in a sentence, what is correct subject–verb agreement, do we need "manage to" in a sentence, "was/were able to" vs "could", "(am/are/is/was/were) not going to" vs "will not", "indicate" vs "show", what form of verb should be used after "been" or "was", should i use "conduct an interrogation of" or "interrogate" in my work, "participate" vs "take part", when should you use "choose/decide" before an infinitive, should i use "demonstrate" or "show" in my work, subject–verb agreement, what form of verb should you use after modal verbs, what forms should you use after "have", incorrect verb form, watch out for hidden verbs in your writing—set them free (video available), obtain vs get, learn more about grammar:, your personal writing coach.

how to use essay as a verb

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Dr. Karen Palmer

When revising your paper, one thing to look for is your verb use. Using wimpy verbs can make your writing appear uninteresting and lackluster. However, using strong verbs livens up your writing and keeps readers interested. In each of the sections below, we identify some ideas for strengthening your verbs. You can use the Find feature in Word to search for each of these types of weak verbs and determine how you might make revisions that will make your writing more interesting.

Video licensed Creative Commons license.

Avoid “State of Being” Verbs

Read through your paper and look for any forms of the verbs be, do, and have.

am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been

do, does, did, doing, done

have, has, had, having

These are verbs that reflect a state of being, rather than action. To spice up your writing, try to change at least some of those ‘state of being’ verbs to more active options. =

He had a lot of clothes.

His clothes overflowed his closets.

Notice that when we eliminate the state of being verb, the sentence gets much more interesting!

Avoid Verbs Followed by an Adverb

Look for any places in your writing where a verb is followed by an adverb.

She walked slowly.

He ate quickly.

Replace these pairs of verbs and adverbs with a stronger verb that conveys the feeling of the adverb. 

She dragged her feet.

He gulped his food.

Use Active Voice

Two sentences can generally say the same thing but leave an entirely different impression based on the verb choices. For example, which of the following sentences gives you the most vivid mental picture?

A bald eagle was overhead and now is low in the sky near me.

A bald eagle soared overhead and then dove low, seemingly coming right at me.

Even though the passive voice might include an action verb, the strength of the action verb is lessened by the structure of the sentence. Also, the passive voice tends to create unnecessary wordiness.

Read the following sentences and think of a way to reword each using an action verb in active voice.

1. Original: The zebras were fed by the zoo workers. (eight words)

2. Original: Water was spewed in the air by the elephant. (nine words)

3. Original: The home of the hippopotamus was cleaned up and made tidy by Hank the Hippo Man. (sixteen words)

When to Use Passive Voice

Sometimes passive voice actually is the best option. The point is to only use passive voice when you consciously decide to do so. There are several different situations where the passive voice is more useful than the active voice.

  • When you don’t know who did the action:  The paper had been moved.
  • When you want to hide who did the action:  The window had been broken.
  • When you want to emphasize the person or thing the action was done to (or the person or thing that performed the action is not important): Caroline was hurt when Kent broke up with her. or The park was flooded all week.
  • When you do not want to place credit, responsibility, or blame: A mistake was made in the investigation that resulted in the wrong person being on trial.
  • When you want to maintain the impression of objectivity: It was noted that only first graders chose to eat the fruit.
  • A subject that can’t actually  do  anything:  Caroline was hurt when she fell into the trees.
  • When you want to avoid using a gendered construction and pluralizing is not an option: If the password is forgotten by the user, a security question will be asked.

However, some instructors and/or disciplines prefer that the passive voice not be used. This could be due to requirements for writing in that discipline, or it could be a way for an instructor to be sure students don’t overuse the passive voice. Overuse of the passive voice makes writing dull, so be sure you are using it appropriately.

Avoid “There is/There are/It is” Constructions

You might have developed a tendency to use another rather dull and unimaginative form of passive voice, by starting sentences with “there is,” “there are,” “there were,” “it is,” or “it was.” Read each of the following examples of this kind of passive voice construction . In your head, think of a way to reword the sentence to make it more interesting by using an action verb.

Look through your paper and circle any sentence that begin with “There is” or “There are” or “It is.” These sentence openings can make your writing seem dull and repetitive. Try removing “There is” or “There are” to make your sentences more interesting.

It is interesting to study literature.

vs The study of literature interests me.

As a rule, try to express yourself with action verbs instead of forms of the verb “to be.” Sometimes it is fine to use forms of the verb “to be,” such as “is” or “are,” but it is easy to overuse them (as in this sentence—twice). Overuse of such verbs results in dull writing.

Read each of the following sentences and note the use of the verb “to be.” In your head, think of a way to reword the sentence to make it more interesting by using an action verb. Then look at how each revision uses one or more action verbs .

Original: A photo was snapped, the tiger was upset, and Elizabeth was on the ground.

Revision: Elizabeth innocently snapped the photo and the lion let out a roar that sent Elizabeth scrambling backward until she fell down.

1. Original: A giraffe’s neck is long and thin, but it is as much as five hundred pounds in weight.

2. Original: An elephant is able to drink eighty gallons of water and is likely to eat one thousand pounds of vegetation in a day.

3. Original: There are thousands of butterflies in the Butterfly House.

4. Original: There were four giraffes eating leaves from the trees.


  • “Choosing Appropriate Verb Tenses”, section 15.2 from the book Writers’ Handbook (v. 1.0). For details on it (including licensing), click here .
  • The Passive versus Active Voice Dilemma. Authored by: Joe Schall. Provided by: The Pennsylvania State University. Located at:  https://www.e-education.psu.edu/styleforstudents/c1_p11.html . License:  CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Content adapted from “ Writing in Active Voice and Uses of Passive Voice ” licensed under CC BY NC SA 3.0 . 

The RoughWriter's Guide Copyright © 2020 by Dr. Karen Palmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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how to use essay as a verb

273 Strong Verbs That’ll Spice Up Your Writing

Do you ever wonder why a grammatically correct sentence you’ve written just lies there like a dead fish?

I sure have.

Your sentence might even be full of those adjectives and adverbs your teachers and loved ones so admired in your writing when you were a kid.

But still the sentence doesn’t work.

Something simple I learned from The Elements of Style years ago changed the way I write and added verve to my prose. The authors of that little bible of style said: “Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.”

Even Mark Twain was quoted, regarding adjectives: “When in doubt, strike it out.”

That’s not to say there’s no place for adjectives. I used three in the title and first paragraph of this post alone.

The point is that good writing is more about well-chosen nouns and strong verbs than it is about adjectives and adverbs, regardless what you were told as a kid.

There’s no quicker win for you and your manuscript than ferreting out and eliminating flabby verbs and replacing them with vibrant ones.

  • How To Know Which Verbs Need Replacing

Your first hint is your own discomfort with a sentence. Odds are it features a snooze-inducing verb.

As you hone your ferocious self-editing skills , train yourself to exploit opportunities to replace a weak verb for a strong one.

At the end of this post I suggest a list of 273 vivid verbs you can experiment with to replace tired ones.

Want to download a copy of this strong verbs list to reference whenever you write? Click here. What constitutes a tired verb? Here’s what to look for:

  • 3 Types of Verbs to Beware of in Your Prose

1. State-of-being verbs

These are passive as opposed to powerful:

Am I saying these should never appear in your writing? Of course not. You’ll find them in this piece. But when a sentence lies limp, you can bet it contains at least one of these. Determining when a state-of-being verb is the culprit creates a problem—and finding a better, more powerful verb to replace it— is what makes us writers. [Note how I replaced the state-of-being verbs in this paragraph.]

Resist the urge to consult a thesaurus for the most exotic verb you can find. I consult such references only for the normal word that carries power but refuses to come to mind.

I would suggest even that you consult my list of powerful verbs only after you have exhaust ed all efforts to come up with one on your own. You want Make your prose to be your own creation, not yours plus Roget or Webster or Jenkins. [See how easy they are to spot and fix?]

Impotent: The man was walking on the platform.

Powerful: The man strode along the platform.

Impotent: Jim is a lover of country living.

Powerful: Jim treasures country living.

Impotent: There are three things that make me feel the way I do…

Powerful: Three things convince me…

2. Verbs that rely on adverbs

Powerful verbs are strong enough to stand alone.

The fox ran quickly dashed through the forest.

She menacingly looked glared at her rival.

He secretly listened eavesdropped while they discussed their plans.

3. Verbs with -ing suffixes

Before: He was walking…

After: He walked…

Before: She was loving the idea of…

After: She loved the idea of…

Before: The family was starting to gather…

After: The family started to gather…

  • The Strong Verbs List
  • Disillusion
  • Reverberate
  • Revolutionize
  • Supercharge
  • Transfigure

Amateur writing mistake

Are You Making This #1 Amateur Writing Mistake?

White blooming flower

Faith-Based Words and Phrases

how to use essay as a verb

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Definition of essay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

  • composition

attempt , try , endeavor , essay , strive mean to make an effort to accomplish an end.

attempt stresses the initiation or beginning of an effort.

try is often close to attempt but may stress effort or experiment made in the hope of testing or proving something.

endeavor heightens the implications of exertion and difficulty.

essay implies difficulty but also suggests tentative trying or experimenting.

strive implies great exertion against great difficulty and specifically suggests persistent effort.

Examples of essay in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'essay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle French essai , ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing, from Latin ex- + agere to drive — more at agent

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Phrases Containing essay

  • photo - essay
  • essay question

Articles Related to essay

alt 5a4412a517d28

To 'Essay' or 'Assay'?

You'll know the difference if you give it the old college essay

Dictionary Entries Near essay

Cite this entry.

“Essay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/essay. Accessed 31 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of essay.

Kids Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

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The Write Practice

280+ Strong Verbs: 3 Tips to Strengthen Your Verbs in Writing 

by Joe Bunting | 0 comments

Strong verbs transform your writing from drab, monotonous, unclear, and amateurish to engaging, professional, and emotionally powerful.

Which is all to say, if you're not using strong verbs in your writing, you're missing one of the most important stylistic techniques.

how to use essay as a verb

Why listen to Joe? I've been a professional writer for more than a decade, writing in various different formats and styles. I've written formal nonfiction books, descriptive novels, humorous memoir chapters, and conversational but informative online articles (like this one!).

In short, I earn a living in part by writing (and revising) using strong verbs selected for each type of writing I work on. I hope you find the tips on verbs below useful! And if you want to skip straight to the verb list below, click here to see over 200 strong verbs.

Hemingway clung to a writing rule that said, “Use vigorous English.” In fact, Hemingway was more likely to use verbs than any other part of speech, far more than typical writing, according to LitCharts :

Hemingway's use of parts of speech.

But what are strong verbs? And how do you avoid weak ones?

In this post, you'll learn the three best techniques to find weak verbs in your writing and replace them with strong ones. We'll also look at a list of the strongest verbs for each type of writing, including the strongest verbs to use.

What are Strong Verbs?

Strong verbs, in a stylistic sense, are powerful verbs that are specific and vivid verbs. They are most often in active voice and communicate action precisely.

The Top 7 Strong Verbs

Here are the top 7 I found when I reviewed a couple of my favorite books. See if you agree and tell me in the comments.  

Think about the vivid and specific image each of these strong verbs conjures. Each one asserts precision.

It's true that writers will use descriptive verbs that best fit their character, story, and style, but it's interesting to note trends.

For example, Hemingway most often used verbs like: galloped, punched, lashed, and baited. Each of these verbs evokes a specific motion, as well as a tone. Consider how Hemingway's verbs stack up against weaker counterparts:

Table of Hemingway's verbs compared to weaker, less precise verbs. Examples: galloped versus hurried, punched versus hit, lash versus hit, bait versus bother

None of the weaker verbs are incorrect, but they don't pack the power of Hemingway's strong action verbs, especially for his story lines, characters, and style. These are verbs that are forward-moving and aggressive in tone. (Like his characters!)

Consider how those choices differ significantly than a few from Virginia Woolf's opening page of Mrs. Dalloway :

Table of Virginia Woolf's verbs, including: burst versus break, plunged versus dip, flapped versus wave, stiffened versus set, and perched versus sat

Notice how Woolf's choices create the vibrant, descriptive style that marks her experimental novel and its main character. Consider the difference between “perched” and “sat.” “Perched” suggests an image of a bird, balancing on a wire. Applied to people, it connotes an anxiousness or readiness to stand again. “Sat” is much less specific. 

The strongest verbs for your own writing will depend on a few things: your story, the main character,  the genre, and the style that is uniquely yours. How do you choose then? Let's look at three tips to edit out weak, boring verbs. 

How to Edit for Strong Verbs FAST

So how do you root out those weak verbs and revise them quickly? Here are a few tips. 

1. Search for Weak Verbs

All verbs can be strong if they're used in specific, detailed, and descriptive sentences.

The issue comes when verbs are overused, doing more work than they're intended for, watering down the writing. 

Here are some verbs that tend to weaken your writing:

Did you notice that most of these are “to be” verbs? That's because “to be” verbs are linking verbs or state of being verbs. Their purpose is to describe conditions.

For example, in the sentence “They are happy,” the verb “are” is used to describe the state of the subject. 

There's nothing particularly wrong with linking verbs. Writers who have a reputation for strong writing, like Ernest Hemingway or Cormac McCarthy, use linking verbs constantly.

The problem comes when you overuse them. Linking verbs tend to involve more telling  vs. showing .

Strong verbs, on the other hand, are usually action verbs, like whack, said, ran, lassoed, and spit (see more in the list below). 

The most important thing is to use the best verb for the context, while emphasizing specific, important details.

Take a look at the following example early into Hemingway's  For Whom the Bell Tolls :

The young man, who was studying the country, took his glasses from the pocket of his faded, khaki flannel shirt, wiped the lenses with a handkerchief, screwed the eyepieces around until the boards of the mill showed suddenly clearly and he saw the wooden bench beside the door; the huge pile of sawdust that rose behind the open shed where the circular saw was , and a stretch of the flume that brought the logs down from the mountainside on the other bank of the stream.

I've highlighted all the verbs. You can see here that Hemingway does use the word “was,” but most of the verbs are action verbs, wiped, took, screwed, saw, etc. The result of this single sentence is that the audience pictures the scene with perfect clarity.

Here's another example from Naomi Novick's Deadly Education:

He was only a few steps from my desk chair, still hunched panting over the bubbling purplish smear of the soul-eater that was now steadily oozing into the narrow cracks between the floor tiles, the better to spread all over my room. The fading incandescence on his hands was illuminating his face, not an extraordinary face or anything: he had a big beaky nose that would maybe be dramatic one day when the rest of his face caught up, but for now was just too large, and his forehead was dripping sweat and plastered with his silver-grey hair that he hadn’t cut for three weeks too long.

Vivid right? You can see that again, she incorporates weaker verbs (was, had) into her writing, but the majority are highly descriptive action verbs like hunched, illuminating, spread, plastered, and dripping.

Don't be afraid of linking verbs, state verbs, or helping verbs, but emphasize action words to make your writing more powerful.

2. Remove Adverbs and Replace the Verbs to Make Them Stronger

Adverbs add more detail and qualifications to verbs or adjectives. You can spot them because they usually end in “-ly,” like the word “usually” in this sentence, or frequently, readily, happily, etc.

Adverbs get a bad rap from writers.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs,” Stephen King said.

“Adverbs are dead to me. They cannot excite me,” said Mark Twain . 

“I was taught to distrust adjectives,” said Hemingway, “as I would later learn to distrust certain people in certain situations.”

Even Voltaire jumped in on the adverb dogpile, saying, “Adjectives are frequently the greatest enemy of the substantive.”

All of these writers, though, used adverbs when necessary. Still, the average writer uses them far more than they did.

Adverbs signal weak verbs. After all, why use two words, an adverb and a verb, when one strong verb can do.

Look at the following examples of adverbs with weak verbs replaced by stronger verbs:

  • He ran quickly –> He sprinted
  • She said loudly –> She shouted
  • He ate hungrily –> He devoured his meal
  • They talked quietly –> They whispered

Strive for simple, strong, clear language over padding your writing with  more  words. 

You don't need to completely remove adverbs from your writing. Hemingway himself used them frequently. But cultivating a healthy distrust of adverbs seems to be a sign of wisdom among writers.

3. Stop Hedging and “Eliminate Weasel Words”

Amazon's third tip for writing for employees is “Eliminate Weasel Words,” and that advice applies to verbs too.

Instead of “nearly all customers,” say, “89 percent of customers.”

Instead of “significantly better,” say, “a 43 percent improvement.”

Weasel words are a form of hedging.

Hedging allows you to avoid commitment by using qualifiers such as “probably,” “maybe,” “sometimes,” “often,” “nearly always,” “I think,” “It seems,” and so on.

Hedge words or phrases soften the impact of a statement or to reduce the level of commitment to the statement's accuracy.

By eliminating hedging, you're forced to strengthen all your language, including verbs.

What do you really think about something? Don't say, “I think.” Stand by it. A thing is or isn't. You don't  think  it is or believe it is. You stand by it.

If you write courageously with strength of opinion, your verbs grow stronger as well.

how to use essay as a verb

Beware the Thesaurus: Strong Verbs are Simple Verbs

I caveat this advice with the advice to beware thesauruses.

Strong writing is almost always simple writing. 

Writers who replace verbs like “was” and “get” with long, five-syllable verbs that mean the same thing as a simple, one-syllable verb don't actually communicate more clearly.

To prepare for this article, I studied the verb use in the first chapters of several books by my favorite authors, including Ernest Hemingway's  For Whom the Bell Tolls  and Naomi Novik's Deadly Education.

Hemingway has a bigger reputation as a stylist and a “great” writer, but I found that Novik's verb choice was just as strong and even slightly more varied. 

Hemingway tended to use simpler, shorter verbs, though, often repeating verbs, whereas Novik's verbs were longer and often more varied.

I love both of these writers, but if you're measuring strength, simplicity will most often win.

In dialogue this is especially important . Writers sometimes try to find every synonym for the word, “said” to describe the exact timber and attitude of how a character is speaking.

This becomes a distraction from the dialogue itself. In dialogue, the words spoken should speak for themselves, not whatever synonym the writer has looked up for “said.” 

Writers should use simple speaker tags like “said” and “asked” as a rule, only varying that occasionally when the situation warrants it.

270+ Strong Verbs List

We've argued strong verbs are detailed, descriptive, action verbs, and below, I list over 200 strong verbs to make your writing better.

I compiled this list directly from the first chapters of some of my favorite books, already mentioned previously,  For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway,  Deadly Education  by Naomi Novik, and The Undoing Project   by Michael Lewis.

This is a necessarily simplified list, taken only from the first chapters of those books.  There are thousands of strong verbs, usually action verbs, but these are a good start.

I've also sorted them alphabetically and put them into present tense.

  • Collaborate
  • Intellectualize

The Best Way to Learn to Use Strong Verbs

The above tips will help get you started using strong verbs, but the best way to learn how to grow as a writer with your verbs is through reading.

But not just reading, studying the work of your favorite writers carefully and then trying to emulate it, especially in the genre you write in.

As Cormac McCarthy, who passed away recently, said, “The unfortunate truth is that books are made from books.”

If you want to grow as a writer, start with the books you love. Then adapt your style from there.

Which tip will help you use more strong verbs in your writing today? Let me know in the comments.  

Choose one of the following three practice exercises:

1. Study the verb use in the first chapter of one of your favorite books. Write down all of the verbs the author uses. Roughly what percentage are action verbs versus linking verbs? What else do you notice about their verb choice?

2. Free write for fifteen minutes using only action verbs and avoiding all “to be” verbs and adverbs.

3. Edit a piece that you've written, replacing the majority of linking verbs with action verbs and adverbs with stronger verbs.

Share your practice in the Pro Practice Workshop here , and give feedback to a few other writers. 

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Joe Bunting

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how to use essay as a verb

How to Incorporate Action Verbs Into Your Writing

Has a teacher ever told you to use more variety in your writing? You probably wracked your brain for a way to do this. Should you add more synonyms? Maybe you need more sentence structure variation? In fact, one great solution is to use more action verbs ! Action verbs can make your writing more interesting and flow better. Let’s look at how to incorporate them into your writing.

Step up your writing game with the BibMe Plus grammar and plagiarism checker . It can help you spot potential mistakes before your teacher does. In addition, read our grammar guides to learn about adjectives that start with a , what is a conjunction , a determiner definition , and many other grammar topics.

Defining the Term

Before undertaking the task of incorporating action verbs into your writing, it’s important to understand what “action verbs” are in the first place: an action verb is a verb that specifically expresses action (such as jump, run, grab, blink ), as opposed to other types of verbs, like linking or helping verbs . According to Merriam-Webster, a linking verb is “a word or expression (such as a form of be , become , feel , or seem ) that links a subject with its predicate.” A helping verb is “a verb (as am , may , or will ) that is used with another verb to express person, number, mood, or tense.”

Therefore action verbs are verbs that help create a visual of a subject performing an action in your reader’s mind. Action verb examples include jump, search, nurture , and so on.

Make a Word Bank

Before sitting down to write your first draft, it can be helpful to write up a word bank of different action verbs. This word bank can be a tool to draw on as you write so that you incorporate more action verbs into your writing from the get-go. Your word bank could contain both common and lesser-known verbs to give you a variety. Use a thesaurus if you get stuck.

A word bank of action verbs could be set up in two columns like this:

Double check that the verbs on your list are indeed action verbs so that you don’t accidentally use linking or helping verbs when you don’t want to.

Look at Tone

When selecting action verbs to use, consider the type of composition you’re writing. This will dictate both your tone in the piece and how you select action verbs. For example, if you are writing a formal research paper , you might employ less commonly used vocabulary words like gravitate or deliberate to help create a formal or academic tone. A word bank of verbs suitable to your tone (more sophisticated ones for a formal/academic tone, more common ones for an informal tone) might be helpful.

Tip: If you have a vocabulary textbook left over from recent years in school, you might look there to identify action verbs at the level of vocabulary your tone dictates.

Insert Verbs During Revision

Before sitting down to revise your use of action verbs in the first draft, take a moment to plan out the revision as a whole. When revising, be certain to consider your organization of logic or events, word choice (like action verbs!), and proofreading.

To insert verbs during revision, focus on the wording step of revision (such as how you phrased each sentence and paragraph). Wording contributes to tone and how the reader perceives what you’re saying. If you have written a persuasive essay, for instance, you want to consider use of action verbs in relation to the argument, such as using verbs unique to each type of rhetorical strategy.

For logos aspects of your essay (appealing to logic), look for action verbs that accompany hard facts like investigate or inspect . For aspects of an essay that appeal to emotions (pathos), make sure appropriate action verbs are attached, such as undergo or believe . The same concept applies to setting up your credibility with the reader (ethos), where you want to use action verbs that display your level of education and intelligence.

Ultimately, during this revision of wording, you want to look for places where you could have used an action verb but didn’t, or could have used a stronger one. No matter what type of writing you are doing, from an essay to a creative piece, you want to display your grasp of language in a way that is unique to your style of writing.

Tip : Reading out loud is helpful for all aspects of revision, such as locating awkward passages that can be ironed out with stronger, more direct wording. This is a great way to find areas where more action verbs might be placed.

Use a Thesaurus

Don’t forget that you can use a thesaurus during revision! One strategy for working action verbs into your writing is to read over your work and replace verbs that were repeated a lot, or are helping or linking verbs (like seem or become ).

Example : If you tend to use the linking verb “to be” repeatedly (verbs like is , was , were , are , etc.), you might want to do a word search and replace some instances with action verbs.

Look at this sentence:

The birds were happy to fly to the next telephone line.

Try replacing “were” like this:

The birds swooped happily over to the next telephone line.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to have more variety on first drafts or searching for places to slip more creative action verbs into a revision, knowing what an action verb is and how to use one is important. Happy writing and revising!

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how to use essay as a verb

How to replace is, are, am, was, were, be, been and to be.

The hardest skill students learn is how to replace the verb “to be.”  Yet is it the single most important skill for improving the verbs in their writing.

The problem is that the verb “to be” rarely has strong synonyms. As a linking verb it can sometimes be replaced with another linking verb.  “He is sick” can become “He looks sick” or “He feels sick” or “He seems sick.”  But none of those replacements is much stronger than the original verb, “is.”

Change common verbs to more expressive verbs.

An excerpt of a third grader’s revised essay.

Even harder is when the verb identifies something that exists.  How do you restate, “That dog is mine.”  “That dog was mine,” changes just the verb tense; it is the same verb.  “That dog becomes mine,” changes the meaning.

What I tell my students is that usually they will need to replace not just the verb, but the whole sentence.  I ask them to tell me what the sentence means, using other words.  For the sentence, “He is sick,” I ask how they know he is sick.  What does he look like that would let me know he is sick?  They might say, “His face is red and he has a fever.”  I might say, “That’s good, but you are still using the word is.  How can you tell me that his face is red and that he has a fever without using the word ‘is’”?  Usually they are stumped, so I offer suggestions.  “His mother placed an ice bag on his flushed forehead.”  Or, “’Wow!  101 degrees,’ said his mother shaking the thermometer.”   Or, “The feverish boy lay down on the cold tile floor, moving every few seconds to chill his hot body.”

The trick is to let the reader see, hear, touch, smell or taste (usually see) what the writer saw in his mind before he wrote, “He is sick.”  “He is sick” is a conclusion based on certain facts.  What are the facts that led the writer to conclude that “He is sick”? Those facts are what the reader needs to know so that the reader can come to his own conclusion that “He is sick.”

We’ll have more blogs on changing the verb “to be” in the future because it is such a vital part of improving writing, yet such a difficult skill to master.  For now, we’ll move on to the next blog about sentence beginnings.

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2 responses to “ How to replace is, are, am, was, were, be, been and to be. ”

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Hi, I’m looking for a writing tutor for my 10 year old daughter. One who could grow in the language arts especially in writing. I like your edited writing excerpt, even though i know english as my second language. My deepest desire is to see my daughter Laura to excel in language arts learning. Do you think i could hrar from you? We live in Ventura.

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Excellent article……simply outstanding

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Semicolons, colons, and dashes

What this handout is about.

This handout explains the most common uses of three kinds of punctuation: semicolons (;), colons (:), and dashes (—). After reading the handout, you will be better able to decide when to use these forms of punctuation in your own writing.

The semicolon looks like a comma with a period above it, and this can be a good way to remember what it does. A semicolon creates more separation between thoughts than a comma does but less than a period does. Here are the two most common uses of the semicolon:

1. To help separate items in a list, when some of those items already contain commas.

Let’s look at an example, as that is the easiest way to understand this use of the semicolon. Suppose I want to list three items that I bought at the grocery store:

apples grapes pears

In a sentence, I would separate these items with commas:

I bought apples, grapes, and pears.

Now suppose that the three items I want to list are described in phrases that already contain some commas:

shiny, ripe apples small, sweet, juicy grapes firm pears

If I use commas to separate these items, my sentence looks like this:

I bought shiny, ripe apples, small, sweet, juicy grapes, and firm pears.

That middle part is a bit confusing—it doesn’t give the reader many visual cues about how many items are in the list, or about which words should be grouped together. Here is where the semicolon can help. The commas between items can be “bumped up” a notch and turned into semicolons, so that readers can easily tell how many items are in the list and which words go together:

I bought shiny, ripe apples; small, sweet, juicy grapes; and firm pears.

2. To join two sentences.

An independent clause is a group of words that can stand on its own (independently)—it is a complete sentence. Semicolons can be used between two independent clauses. The semicolon keeps the clauses somewhat separate, like a period would do, so we can easily tell which ideas belong to which clause. But it also suggests that there may be a close relationship between the two clauses—closer than you would expect if there were a period between them. Let’s look at a few examples. Here are a few fine independent clauses, standing on their own as complete sentences:

I went to the grocery store today. I bought a ton of fruit. Apples, grapes, and pears were on sale.

Now—where could semicolons fit in here? They could be used to join two (but not all three) of the independent clauses together. So either of these pairs of sentences would be okay:

I went to the grocery store today; I bought a ton of fruit. Apples, grapes, and pears were all on sale.

I went to the grocery store today. I bought a ton of fruit; apples, grapes, and pears were all on sale.

I could NOT do this:

I went to the grocery store today; I bought a ton of fruit; apples, grapes, and pears were all on sale.

But why would I want to use a semicolon here, anyway? One reason might have to do with style: the three short sentences sound kind of choppy or abrupt. A stronger reason might be if I wanted to emphasize a relationship between two of the sentences. If I connect “I bought a ton of fruit” and “Apples, grapes, and pears were all on sale” more closely, readers may realize that the reason why I bought so much fruit is that there was a great sale on it.

Colons follow independent clauses (clauses that could stand alone as sentences) and can be used to present an explanation, draw attention to something, or join ideas together.

Common uses of colons

1. To announce, introduce, or direct attention to a list, a noun or noun phrase, a quotation, or an example/explanation. You can use a colon to draw attention to many things in your writing. The categories listed below often overlap, so don’t worry too much about whether your intended use of the colon fits one category perfectly.

Lists/series example:

We covered many of the fundamentals in our writing class: grammar, punctuation, style, and voice.

Noun/noun phrase example:

My roommate gave me the things I needed most: companionship and quiet.

Quotation example:

Shakespeare said it best: “To thine own self be true.”

Example/explanation example:

Many graduate students discover that there is a dark side to academia: late nights, high stress, and a crippling addiction to caffeinated beverages.

2. To join sentences. You can use a colon to connect two sentences when the second sentence summarizes, sharpens, or explains the first. Both sentences should be complete, and their content should be very closely related. Note that if you use colons this way too often, it can break up the flow of your writing. So don’t get carried away with your colons!

Example: Life is like a puzzle: half the fun is in trying to work it out.

3. To express time, in titles, and as part of other writing conventions. Colons appear in several standard or conventional places in writing. Here are a few examples:

  • With numbers. Colons are used to separate units of time (4:45:00 expresses four hours, forty-five minutes, and zero seconds); ratios (2:1), and Bible verses and chapters (Matthew 2:24).
  • In bibliography entries. Many citation styles use a colon to separate information in bibliography entries.

Example: Kurlansky, M. (2002). Salt: A world history. New York, NY: Walker and Co.

  • With subtitles. Colons are used to separate titles from subtitles.

Example: Everest: The Last Frontier

  • After the salutation in a formal business letter. A colon can be used immediately after the greeting in a formal letter (less-formal letters tend to use a comma in this location).

Example: To Whom It May Concern: Please accept my application for the position advertised in the News and Observer.

Common colon mistakes

1. Using a colon between a verb and its object or complement

Example (incorrect):The very best peaches are: those that are grown in the great state of Georgia.

To correct this, simply remove the colon.

2. Using a colon between a preposition and its object

Example (incorrect): My favorite cake is made of: carrots, flour, butter, eggs, and cream cheese icing.

3. Using a colon after “such as,” “including,” “especially,” and similar phrases. This violates the rule that the material preceding the colon must be a complete thought. Look, for example, at the following sentence:

Example (incorrect): There are many different types of paper, including: college ruled, wide ruled, and plain copy paper.

You can see that “There are many different types of paper, including” is not a complete sentence. The colon should simply be removed.

How to check for mistakes

Ask yourself a question: does the material preceding the colon stand on its own? One way to tell if the colon has been properly used is to look only at the words that come in front of the colon. Do they make a complete thought? If not, you may be using the colon improperly. Check above to see if you have made one of the most common mistakes.

Should you capitalize the first letter after a colon?

Different citation styles (such as MLA, APA, Chicago, and AMA) have slightly different rules regarding whether to capitalize the first letter after a colon. If it is important that you follow one of these styles precisely, be sure to use the appropriate manual to look up the rule.

Here’s our suggestion: generally, the first word following the colon should be lower-cased if the words after the colon form a dependent clause (that is, if they could not stand on their own as a complete sentence). If the following phrase is a complete (independent) clause, you may choose to capitalize it or not. Whichever approach you choose, be sure to be consistent throughout your paper.

Example with an independent clause, showing two different approaches to capitalization: The commercials had one message: The geeks shall inherit the earth. (correct) The commercials had one message: the geeks shall inherit the earth. (correct)

Example with a dependent clause (which is not capitalized): There are three perfect times to smile: when I’m with friends, when I’m alone, and when I’m with my dog. (correct)

The first thing to know when talking about dashes is that they are almost never required by the laws of grammar and punctuation. Overusing dashes can break up the flow of your writing, making it choppy or even difficult to follow, so don’t overdo it.

It’s also important to distinguish between dashes and hyphens. Hyphens are shorter lines (-); they are most often used to show connections between words that are working as a unit (for example, you might see adjectives like “well-intentioned”) or to spell certain words (like “e-mail”).

With that background information in mind, let’s take a look at some ways to put dashes to work in your writing.

1. To set off material for emphasis. Think of dashes as the opposite of parentheses. Where parentheses indicate that the reader should put less emphasis on the enclosed material, dashes indicate that the reader should pay more attention to the material between the dashes. Dashes add drama—parentheses whisper. Dashes can be used for emphasis in several ways: A single dash can emphasize material at the beginning or end of a sentence.

Example: After eighty years of dreaming, the elderly man realized it was time to finally revisit the land of his youth—Ireland.

Example: “The Office”—a harmless television program or a dangerously subversive guide to delinquency in the workplace?

Two dashes can emphasize material in the middle of a sentence. Some style and grammar guides even permit you to write a complete sentence within the dashes.

Example: Everything I saw in my new neighborhood—from the graceful elm trees to the stately brick buildings—reminded me of my alma mater.

Example (complete sentence): The students—they were each over the age of eighteen—lined up in the streets to vote for the presidential candidates.

Two dashes can emphasize a modifier. Words or phrases that describe a noun can be set off with dashes if you wish to emphasize them.

Example: The fairgrounds—cold and wet in the October rain—were deserted.

Example: Nettie—her chin held high—walked out into the storm.

2. To indicate sentence introductions or conclusions. You can sometimes use a dash to help readers see that certain words are meant as an introduction or conclusion to your sentence.

Example: Books, paper, pencils—many students lacked even the simplest tools for learning in nineteenth-century America.

Example: To improve their health, Americans should critically examine the foods that they eat—fast food, fatty fried foods, junk food, and sugary snacks.

3. To mark “bonus phrases.” Phrases that add information or clarify but are not necessary to the meaning of a sentence are ordinarily set off with commas. But when the phrase itself already contains one or more commas, dashes can help readers understand the sentence.

Slightly confusing example with commas: Even the simplest tasks, washing, dressing, and going to work, were nearly impossible after I broke my leg.

Better example with dashes: Even the simplest tasks—washing, dressing, and going to work—were nearly impossible after I broke my leg.

4. To break up dialogue. In written dialogue, if a speaker suddenly or abruptly stops speaking, hesitates in speech, or is cut off by another speaker, a dash can indicate the pause or interruption.

Example: “I—I don’t know what you’re talking about,” denied the politician.

Example: Mimi began to explain herself, saying, “I was thinking—” “I don’t care what you were thinking,” Rodolpho interrupted.

We hope that this handout has helped you better understand colons, semicolons, and dashes! For more information about punctuation, be sure to check out our handout on commas .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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how to use essay as a verb

Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > How AI can help proofread and edit your essays

How AI can help proofread and edit your essays

Don’t let little mistakes hold you back from getting a better grade. Learn how you can use AI to help you proofread and edit your essays.

A notebook and a cup of tea

Before submitting your essay, having a second set of eyes to catch any typos or grammatical errors is invaluable. If human help isn’t available, AI can step in to proofread or edit your work, offering instant feedback even under tight deadlines . Take a look at the different ways you can use AI for essay editing.

Ask AI to help you identify typos or grammatical errors

It’s easy for the human mind to skim over obvious typos and grammar errors. AI can help you identify these spelling mistakes and grammar issues so you can put some professional polish on your paper. If you’re aware of a specific issue that you struggle with in your essays, you can ask AI to proofread specifically on those errors. Copy and paste your essay into your favorite AI platform and try one of these prompts:

  • Can you identify any typos in this paper and explain why they are incorrect?
  • I often put commas in the wrong place. Can you identify any incorrect commas in my essay and tell me why they’re incorrect?
  • Can you help me identify any incorrect homophones in my essay?

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Ask AI to help you refine your sentences

Writing clearly is important for all forms of writing, but it’s especially important for academic works. AI can help you edit your essays so that your sentences are easy to understand. Copy and paste your essay into an AI platform and try these prompts to refine its sentences:

  • Can you find passive sentences in my essay and explain how to rewrite them actively?
  • My teacher is a stickler for dangling modifiers . Can you point out any dangling modifiers in my essay?
  • Are there any sentence fragments in my essay?

Ask AI for style guide assistance

If your instructor has asked you to follow a specific style guide , they may deduct points if your essay doesn’t follow it. Try these prompts to get some essay editing help:

  • Can you review if book titles are correctly italicized according to the Chicago Manual of Style, and check for other style-specific issues?
  • My essay is supposed to follow MLA format. Can you identify any parts of my essay that don’t follow MLA format ?
  • How should I format quotes in APA format ?

Ask AI to fact-check your work

AI can help you identify incorrect facts that could impact your final grade. AI can also provide sources that you can use to back up your work. Try these prompts in your preferred AI platform to fact-check your work:

  • Are the biographical facts I included about Jane Austen in my essay correct?
  • Can you make sure all the dates that I listed in my essay are accurate?
  • Can you confirm that the citations in my essay are from peer-reviewed and reputable sources ?

Getting the best proofreading and editing results from AI

When you use AI to proofread an essay, you’ll get better results when you provide it with as much context about the essay as possible. For example, you should include your teacher’s essay instructions so that the AI tool knows what to look for. If the teacher gave you their grading rubric, you should also give it to the AI tool so that it can provide even stronger proofreading and editing recommendations.

While AI can significantly aid in proofreading and editing, remember to use it responsibly, especially in academic settings. If you’re interested in learning more about AI, see if you can use AI to draft an essay for you .

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Paradoxical Line of Amazement

Blake Slonecker presents an erudite themeless grid.

A shimmering group of hundreds of silvery sardines swimming together in blue water; a stingray with a long tail is in the bottom right corner.

By Caitlin Lovinger

SATURDAY PUZZLE — This is Blake Slonecker’s seventh crossword for The New York Times. Many of his earlier grids are attractive in a flashy way — I’m thinking especially of this themeless that ran on a Friday just about a year ago — and they have all been generally considered challenging by solvers. The geometry of today’s construction is intricate, with only 24 black squares and no cheater squares (see Mr. Slonecker’s notes); it’s also subtly beautiful, with double stripes of span entries and its 7-by-7 quadrants, joined only by a crossing of nine-letter entries at the center.

My solve stalled out in the northwest corner, but I think there are worthy stumpers in each region of the grid.

Tricky Clues

26A. This endearing clue would be at home in a cryptic puzzle. The “Verb that becomes a five-letter alphabet run if you change its middle letter” is ABIDE. I know it solves itself in a standard crossword once you’ve figured out any letter beside the center I, but it’s a nice brainteaser on its own.

32A. The challenge here is not to think of “Patient check-ins” as prompts to check in for a doctor’s appointment. Did anyone not take that bait? The entry is much more pleasant: GENTLE REMINDERS.

35A. Both of the center entries in this puzzle use wordplay to misdirect the solver. “Means of excellence?” solves to A AVERAGE — if you have one, then your mean test score is terrific.

50A. This is another fun cryptic clue! The key element in “When we forged ahead?” is “ forged ,” which can mean “moved forward” or “formed metal,” as humans began to do in the IRON AGE.

1D. I figured that the “wood” in “Wood source” would be for fire or furniture (say that five times fast!). This is a sports reference, to a type of club used to hit long shots that a player would find in their GOLF BAG.

3D. In this clue, “Where the Cedar Revolution took place,” what looks like a tree is really a tree. It should have struck me right away, but sometimes a grouping of hard clues addles my mind a bit. With a couple of crossing letters, LEBANON, whose flag features a cedar tree, became obvious.

21D. This entry crosses 35A in the middle of the grid. I found myself finishing the clue, “At least consider,” incorrectly. I thought of something that was of scant importance, and needed several letters from crossing entries to realize the answer. ENTERTAIN, in this case, means to accept something as a possibility (or at least consider it).

37D. This entry is interesting for crossword historians; it last appeared in 1957, with a very different clue. The “Play area at a harvest festival” here is a CORN PIT; I pictured a big hole full of cobs or ears of corn, but it’s actually a bin of kernels that you can sort of swim around in (or make a corn angel, if you like). Decades ago , it was much less whimsically defined as a “Section of a produce exchange,” as in a commodities trading floor.

Constructor Notes

In constructing themeless puzzles, I’ve relied a lot on six-block “staircases,” which can help keep the word count down and the fill fresh. But I started today’s puzzle with the goal of including no cheater squares (blocks that don’t change the puzzle’s word count — they just take up space). In addition, after solving several puzzles last spring with wide-open centers (like the May 27 puzzle from Samuel Smalley), I wanted to create a big, blank ocean in the center of this one (speaking of oceans and centers, Julia Holter’s new album, “Something in the Room She Moves,” is worth several listens — it includes the track “Ocean” near its center). I hadn’t planned for the symmetry or the four 15-letter entries running through the middle, but I think those add-ons really make the puzzle, especially because it otherwise hinges on collections of seven-letter entries, which suffer from something of an identity crisis. Are they long entries? Not quite. But they aspire to be. Cluing the paradoxical THERE ARE NO WORDS was fun. My original clue for GENTLE REMINDERS included a question mark (the misdirection coming from “patient” as a medical term), which was removed in the editing process. I’m curious to know whether solvers think a question mark would’ve helped — I think it works either way. My favorite clue is for IRON AGE, and I’m excited to debut CRAPPER in the New York Times Crossword. Now I return to binge-reading Penelope Fitzgerald — a recommended spring endeavor.

Want to Submit Crosswords to The New York Times?

The New York Times Crossword has an open submission system, and you can submit your puzzles online .

For tips on how to get started, read our series “ How to Make a Crossword Puzzle .”

Paddling in Place?

Subscribers can take a peek at the answer key .

Trying to get back to the puzzle page? Right here .

What did you think?

It’s Game Time!

Take your puzzling skills in new directions..

WordleBot , our daily Wordle companion that tells you how skillful or lucky you are, is getting an upgrade. Here’s what to know .

The editor of Connections , our new game about finding common threads between words, talks about how she makes this daily puzzle feel fun .

We asked some of the best Sudoku  solvers in the world for their tips and tricks. Try them to  tackle even the most challenging puzzles.

Read today’s Wordle Review , and get insights on the game from our columnists.

We asked Times readers how they play Spelling Bee. The hive mind weighed in with their favorite tips and tricks .

Ready to play? Try Wordle , Spelling Bee  or The Crossword .


  1. 75 Academic Writing Verbs

    how to use essay as a verb

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  1. PDF Powerful Verbs for Essays

    Powerful Verbs for Weaving Ideas in Essays The following verbs are helpful as a means of showing how an example or quote in literature Supports an idea or interpretation. Example + Verb + Explanation or Significance (CD) (CM) You may use the above in a sentence as a general formula that may need modified to fit each situation. verb

  2. differences

    The modern meanings for essay and assay are almost unrelated. One essays a difficult task; one assays an ore or other material to objectively measure its value. A essayist is a writer; an assayer is a metallurgist. Both have the same root, the French essai (trial).

  3. To 'Essay' or To 'Assay'?

    To 'essay' is a verb meaning 'to try, attempt, or undertake.' To 'assay' is to 'to test or evaluate.' 'Essay' also has the meaning referring to those short papers you had to write in school on various topics. ... For the modern noun use of essay to mean "a written exploration of a topic," we can almost certainly thank Michel de Montaigne (1533 ...

  4. Power Verbs for Essays (With Examples)

    Examples of Power Verbs. The following are examples of power verbs that are useful in academic writing, both for supporting an argument and for allowing you to vary the language you use. Power Verbs for Analysis: appraise, define, diagnose, examine, explore, identify, interpret, investigate, observe.

  5. Verb Tenses in Academic Writing

    There are three main verb tenses: past , present , and future. In English, each of these tenses can take four main aspects: simple , perfect , continuous (also known as progressive ), and perfect continuous. The perfect aspect is formed using the verb to have, while the continuous aspect is formed using the verb to be.

  6. Verbs: Types of Verbs, Definition and Examples

    Familiarity with verb types will help you understand when to use each type and when to avoid a verb type. The three verb types are: Action verbs (which can be transitive or intransitive) Modal or helping verbs. Linking verbs. Let's take a closer look at each of these verb types and how they function in a sentence.

  7. How to Use Power Verbs to Amp Up Your Writing

    Let's look at some examples. In our before sentence, we'll attempt to boost a weak verb with an adverb. In our after sentence, we'll use a power verb instead. The catran swiftly after the mouse.The cat dartedafter the mouse. Ellalooked angrily at the clumsy waiter.Ellaglared at the clumsy waiter.

  8. Using Strong Verbs

    1. Original: A giraffe's neck is long and thin, but it is as much as five hundred pounds in weight. 2. Original: An elephant is able to drink eighty gallons of water and is likely to eat one thousand pounds of vegetation in a day. 3. Original: There are thousands of butterflies in the Butterfly House.

  9. The Ultimate Strong Verbs List That'll Supercharge Your Writing

    Powerful: The man strode along the platform. Impotent: Jim is a lover of country living. Powerful: Jim treasures country living. Impotent: There are three things that make me feel the way I do…. Powerful: Three things convince me…. 2. Verbs that rely on adverbs. Powerful verbs are strong enough to stand alone. Examples.

  10. Verb Tenses: Cheat Sheet

    Inconsistency in the use of verb tenses is a common problem in academic writing. In the example below, the writer introduces a published article in the present tense, but then switches to the past tense even though the two verbs ( argues and stated ) should refer to the same time frame—when the article was written.

  11. 50 Verbs of Analysis for English Academic Essays

    Definition: to happen at the same time as something else, or be similar or equal to something else. Example: Although the study parallels the procedures of a 2010 study, it has very different findings. Converse International School of Languages offers an English for Academic Purposes course for students interested in improving their academic ...

  12. PDF Strong Verbs for Essay Writing

    Extension 2: Replacing "to be" Verbs Review one of your essay paragraphs. Identify all "to be" verbs (is, are, was, were) and replace them with essay verbs. Ex: "Dickinson's attitude towards death is loving" vs. "Dickinson conveys a loving attitude towards death." *Remember to write about literature in the present tense.

  13. Essay Definition & Meaning

    How to use essay in a sentence. Synonym Discussion of Essay. ... essay. 1 of 2 verb. es· say e-ˈsā ˈes-ˌā : attempt entry 1 sense 1, try. again essayed to ride on the camel. essay. 2 of 2 noun. es· say ˈes-ˌā . in sense 1 also. e-ˈsā . 1: attempt entry 2 sense 1, try. especially: an uncertain or hesitant effort. 2

  14. PDF Powerful Verbs for Essays

    Powerful Verbs for Weaving Ideas in Essays The following verbs are helpful as a means of showing how an example or quote in literature Supports an idea or interpretation. Example + Verb + Explanation or Significance (CD) (CM) You may use the above in a sentence as a general formula that may need modified to fit each situation. verb

  15. 280+ Strong Verbs: 3 Tips to Strengthen Your Verbs in Writing

    Tweet. 3. Stop Hedging and "Eliminate Weasel Words". Amazon's third tip for writing for employees is "Eliminate Weasel Words," and that advice applies to verbs too. Instead of "nearly all customers," say, "89 percent of customers.". Instead of "significantly better," say, "a 43 percent improvement.".

  16. What Is a Verb?

    Verbs can indicate (physical or mental) actions, occurrences, and states of being. Examples: Verbs in a sentence. Jeffrey builds a house. Anita is thinking about horses. True love exists. Every sentence must have at least one verb. At the most basic level, a sentence can consist solely of a single verb in the imperative form (e.g., "Run.").

  17. How to Incorporate Action Verbs Into Your Writing

    If you have written a persuasive essay, for instance, you want to consider use of action verbs in relation to the argument, such as using verbs unique to each type of rhetorical strategy. For logos aspects of your essay (appealing to logic), look for action verbs that accompany hard facts like investigate or inspect.

  18. How to replace is, are, am, was, were, be, been and to be

    As a linking verb it can sometimes be replaced with another linking verb. "He is sick" can become "He looks sick" or "He feels sick" or "He seems sick.". But none of those replacements is much stronger than the original verb, "is.". An excerpt of a third grader's revised essay. Even harder is when the verb identifies ...

  19. Present Perfect Tense

    Present Perfect Tense | Examples & Use. Published on April 4, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.Revised on September 25, 2023. The present perfect tense is a verb form used to refer to a past action or situation that has a present consequence. It's typically used to indicate experience up to the present, recent actions, or a change that occurred over a period of time.

  20. Semicolons, colons, and dashes

    Common uses of colons. 1. To announce, introduce, or direct attention to a list, a noun or noun phrase, a quotation, or an example/explanation. You can use a colon to draw attention to many things in your writing. The categories listed below often overlap, so don't worry too much about whether your intended use of the colon fits one category ...

  21. Simple Past Tense

    How to use the simple past. The simple past tense (also called the past simple or preterite) is used to describe an action or series of actions that occurred in the past.. The past simple of regular verbs is typically formed by adding "-ed" to the end of the infinitive (e.g., "talk" becomes "talked").. Irregular verbs don't follow a specific pattern: some take the same form as ...

  22. How AI can help you proofread and edit essays

    Take a look at the different ways you can use AI for essay editing. Ask AI to help you identify typos or grammatical errors. It's easy for the human mind to skim over obvious typos and grammar errors. AI can help you identify these spelling mistakes and grammar issues so you can put some professional polish on your paper. If you're aware of ...

  23. Paradoxical Line of Amazement

    The "Verb that becomes a five-letter alphabet run if you change its middle letter" is ABIDE. I know it solves itself in a standard crossword once you've figured out any letter beside the ...