Improve Your Content Style Today: Eliminate Weak Verbs

Hopefully I don’t have to convince you of the power of high-quality content. We all know that search engine algorithms evaluate and rank websites, and the ones with premium content are rewarded with the highest rankings. Sure, high-quality content begins with excellent writing, but there is much more to it than simply creating content that is free of grammatical errors. Your content needs to appeal to your readers. It needs to make readers’ eyes move down the page before they even realize it. Your content should have style.

Style Comes With Experience

There is no secret code when it comes to unlocking a writer’s style. Writers, especially web writers, must learn by doing, and style often comes with experience. The best content writers are the ones who are able to utilize different writing styles for different audiences. There are many useful content writing tips out there, but one of the easiest things you can do to improve your content is to eliminate weak verbs.

To Be Or Not To Be…

The opening line of Mr. Shakespeare’s most famous play is still relevant to content writers today. The “to be” verb, although a necessity in writing, is often dreadfully overused. An abundance of the “to be” verb can smother your content, or worse, make readers leave your page before you have a chance to make your point.

Uninterested readers aren’t likely to think, “Man, this blog overuses the ‘to be’ verb. I’m out,” before escaping your page. Rather, readers will yawn at the first few sentences of your mediocre content if you don’t take the time to flavor it with strong action verbs, and they will probably leave your page before scrolling down.

To crush weak verbs in your writing, you must first recognize them. The biggest culprit of the weak-verb crime disguises itself in many different forms: am, is, was, were, be, being, and been. (I’ve often wondered why the most frequently used verb in the English language is also the most irregular, but that’s just the way it is. I’ll save that discussion for a later post.)

Take two examples, written about fashion trends this fall:

1. Fashion reports for the fall season have to be a top priority if you are a runway model. This season, fashionistas are promoting black and navy blue combinations, head-to-toe leather, and metallic accents. The New York runway is currently full of knit tweeds that are popular for topcoats, plaids that are mixed with bright hues, and lace and flowery prints that are combined for a retro feel.

Total words- 68

Total use of “to be” verb- 7

2. Fashion reports for the fall season are a top priority for runway models. This season, fashionistas promote black and navy blue combinations, head-to-toe-leather, and metallic accents. The current New York runway boasts popular knit tweed topcoats, mixtures of plaid and bright hues, and combinations of lace and flowery prints that scream retro.

Total words- 53

Total use of “to be” verb”- 1

As you can see, example B omitted the “to be” verb six times and shortened the passage by 15 words. Example B replaced weak verbs with stronger action verbs; “boasts” and “scream” replaced forms of the “to be” verb and “fashionistas promote” replaced “fashionistas are promoting.” When it comes to writing – especially web writing – less is sometimes more. People rarely read websites word for word, and they definitely don’t spend a great deal of time on a single page.

I’m not saying that you should attempt to completely omit the “to be” verb from your content. You would undoubtedly have a difficult time if you tried to completely extract one of the most common verbs of the English language from your writing. I’m only suggesting that it be used wisely and that content writers shouldn’t overlook opportunities to use strong, powerful verbs. Wordiness exhausts readers and can turn people away from your page. Inexperienced or unsure writers often resort to a writing style that’s overly flowery and excessively drowned in lengthy descriptions, which only tend to confuse or annoy the reader. Oftentimes, readers scorn this type of highfalutin language, because of its overuse of weak verbs and excess words.

Get Your Point Across…

… and do it clearly. And do it with style. There is nothing better than a writer who can express his or her thoughts concisely and with clarity, but without excluding style. So go ahead, strut your style! Put on your metaphorical tweed overcoat this fall and show your readers what you’ve got. By keeping your readers entertained, they will stay on your page longer, and your Google ranking is sure to improve.

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Kimberlee Kile Henry

Lead Editor Kimberlee Kile Henry is an editor by day, writer by night, and a weekend adventure seeker. When she's not slashing dead and empty words from content, you can probably find her chasing one of her three little boys to the top of a mountain or building her Pennsylvania homestead.

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  1. […] to get to the point, and do it using as few words as we possibly can. Read my previous blogs about eliminating weak verbs and understanding prepositions for more tips on how to cut your word count in ways that truly […]

  2. […] recently wrote about improving content through the elimination and replacement of weak verbs, more specifically, the “to be” verb. There are, however, plenty of other ways to improve your […]

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