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Precise Verbs

Precise Verbs Create Effective Communication

One technique for writing materials that clearly communicate what you want to say is to use "precise verbs."  According to Mary Ellen Guffey, author of Essentials of Business Communication,  precise verbs enable the reader to visualize exactly what is happening.  They give the reader an accurate understanding of the action that was or will be taken.

The following examples illustrate how precise verbs create clearer messages.

General verb: I will contact you next week to discuss the business writing project.

Precise verb:  I will telephone you next week to discuss the business writing project.

General verb: The board must consider the problem.

Precise verb:  The board must solve the problem.

Precise verbs leave little room for inaccurate interpretation; therefore, the reader is less likely to be confused or unsure about what is being said. For example, in the example listed above, “consider the problem” could mean to think about the problem, note that the problem exists, or rectify the problem. The second sentence makes it clear to the reader that the board must find a solution to the problem.

Effective writing uses verbs that are active, descriptive, and concrete.


Guffey, Mary Ellen. 1998. Essentials of Business Communication. Ohio: South-Western Publishing Company (52-53).


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