Writing Resources

Active Verbs for Discussing Ideas

This handout is available for download in PDF format.

Active verbs are important components of any academic writing! Just as in other forms of writing, they work as engines, driving the action of your sentences in many potentially vivid, clear, and colorful ways.

Instead of opting for bland, unspecific expressions ("says," "writes about," "believes," "states") consider using more vivid or nuanced verbs such as "argues," "insists," "explains," "emphasizes," "challenges," "agrees," etc. The list below offers dozens of such verbs that will help you communicate your ideas and the ideas of others more clearly, expressively, and powerfully.

Action Verbs A-C Action Verbs D-H Action Verbs I-Q Action Verbs R-Z
accepts declares identifies ratifies
acknowledges defends illuminates rationalizes
adds defies implies reads
admires demands infers reconciles
affirms denies informs reconsiders
allows that describes initiates refutes
analyzes determines insinuates regards
announces diminishes insists rejects
answers disagrees interprets relinquishes
argues discusses intimates reminds
assaults disputes judges repudiates
assembles disregards lists resolves
asserts distinguishes maintains responds
assists emphasizes marshals retorts
buttresses endorses narrates reveals
categorizes enumerates negates reviews
cautions exaggerates observes seeks
challenges experiences outlines sees
claims experiments parses shares
clarifies explains perceives shifts
compares exposes persists shows
complicates facilitates persuades simplifies
concludes formulates pleads states (but don't overuse)
condemns grants points out stresses
confirms guides postulates substitutes
conflates handles praises suggests
confronts hesitates proposes summarizes
confuses highlights protects supplements
considers hints provides supplies
contradicts hypothesizes qualifies supports
contrasts synthesizes
convinces tests
criticizes toys with
critiques treats
Words to Avoid
  • "mentions," unless you mean "refer to something briefly and without going into detail."*
  • "notion" as a synonym for "idea" implies "impulsive," "whimsical," not well considered.*
*New Oxford American Dictionary

Adapted from a list by Cinthia Gannett by Doug Kirshen and Robert B. Cochran, Brandeis University Writing Program, 2020.