Your First Draft in 8 Easy Steps

Writing the first draft of a big paper can be really stressful, but one of the easiest ways to tackle a huge project is to break it into small, manageable bits. Try these eight easy steps for a complete first draft minus all the struggle.

Step 1: Clear your mind

Open a new document and type everything you know about the paper topic. It does not matter how much you know, just get it down. Let’s say you want to write about American culture in Japan, but you don’t know much about it. Make each thought a new text line like this:

  • American culture in Japan
  • World War II
  • Okinawa
  • Japanese culture in the U.S.
  • Food, music,
  • languages

Step 2: Research

Use your favorite research tools to look up your most exciting lines. When you find information that you like, copy and paste a portion directly into your document. Include URL’s and page numbers because you’ll need them for your APA reference page, MLA works cited, or other bibliography type later.

Your draft should now look like this:

  • American culture in Japan
  • World War II
  • Okinawa
  • Japanese culture in the U.S.
  • Food, music
  • languages
  • Jeans, bourbon, hamburgers
  • The victor’s secret weapon
  • Japanization, Marie Kondo

Tip: Change the text color or font of your original ideas. This will help you remember which researched texts need to be cited.

Step 3: Theme building

A minimum of fifteen to twenty lines is necessary before you begin this next step. Take a look at your lines and see what themes you can find. A good way to start is to ask yourself: What, Where, When and How. 

Example Japan/American Culture Themes:

History of the U.S. in Japan

Japanese culture in the U.S.

Examples of American culture in Japan

Japanese immigration to the U.S.

Step 4: Thesis statement

With your themes in mind, it is time to write your thesis statement. If you need help writing your thesis, check out this piece.

Example thesis statement:

From California rolls to closet organizing gurus, Japan and the U.S. have an ongoing cultural exchange that began with World War II.  

Tip: Feel free to begin from step one with a thesis already in mind. But note, the benefit of building your thesis from researched themes is that you know you already have facts to support it which can save a lot of time.  

Step 5: Organize

Place all research lines under the theme where it fits best. Like this:

History of the U.S. in Japan

  • The victor’s secret weapon
  • World War II

Examples of American Culture in Japan

  • Jeans, bourbon, hamburgers

Tip: Depending on how your mind works, you might find it easier to switch steps 4 and 5. For some themes are easier to recognize after related lines are grouped together.

The Graveyard

It hurts to delete a good idea. Instead, put it to rest in a graveyard section at the bottom of your draft. These ideas that don’t fit any of your themes might be helpful in another paper. 

Step 6: Order your themes

Your themes are fully constructed with lines under each, but you still need to decide how your themes will be presented in your paper. One of the simplest ways to do this is to go from past to present like this:

History of the U.S. in Japan

Examples of American culture in Japan

Japanese immigration to the U.S. past and present

Japanese culture in the U.S.

Step 7: Lines in order

The single lines you have under each theme still need to be placed in order. You can do this however you like, but it is important to remember that some lines will make it easier for you to transition from one theme to the next.

Example of sorted text lines:

History of the U.S. in Japan

  • World War II
  • The victor’s secret weapon

Examples of American Culture in Japan

  • Jeans, bourbon, hamburgers

Japanese culture in the U.S.

  • Japanization, Marie Kondo

Tip: Be sure to give yourself a break between each step. Your work will be more efficient and effective if you allow yourself some distance. Make it easy to jump back in by typing what you’d like to do next at the top of your paper just before taking a break.

Step 8: Write baby write!

With all the correct information in order, all you have to do is put everything into your own words. A pro tip is to start with the theme that is the easiest or most fun to write. This will help you find your groove and get you ready for the more challenging themes.

Looking for a plagiarism definition? Wondering how subject verb agreement works? Asking what is an interjection?  The BibMe grammar guides have answers for you.

How Brain Mapping Can Help You Crush That Paper

You’re at your desk looking over your paper assignment. You have an inkling of what concepts and examples you want to mention, but you have no idea where to start. Maybe, you ponder, there’s a productive way to get this tangled web of thoughts out of my head?

As you’ve probably deduced, brain mapping is the answer! Whether you’re writing a paper about Shakespeare or trying to argue that bananas are better than apples (both have their “a-peel”), brain mapping can help you organize your thoughts and writing.

If you’re really stuck for research paper ideas, can help! Check out the free writing and grammar guides for inspiration. They cover everything from verbs and nouns to coordinating conjunctions and possessive pronouns — cover all the basics and make your writing shine!

But wait, what exactly is brain mapping?

Brain mapping is an easy writing technique you can use to get your thoughts in order before you write. Ever read a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book where you pick what happens to your character? You start at the very beginning of the story, and as the journey progresses, you can go off in different directions. If you were to lay out all your adventure options, you’d get something that looks like a brain map!

The goal of a brain map is to get all your ideas onto paper and then draw connections among those ideas. Once you can see all your thoughts, you can then get a sense of which ideas are worth writing. 

Ok, so why should I do it?

Brain mapping is the perfect step to take when you’re either confused about a topic or have too many thoughts about it (honestly, it’s perfect any time you have to write). 

If you’re confused, it’s helpful to use a brain map to decipher why you’re confused. Write out the questions you have about the topic. From there, you can potentially start to answer them with some of the concepts you’ve learned in class. By laying out all the things you’ve learned in class, you can start to see how ideas connect. 

This also works when you have too many thoughts. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the amount of information given in class, and you’re unsure what to use. By seeing all your ideas at once, you give yourself the gift of seeing all the possibilities for your paper and honing in on the most relevant ones.

Great, I’m on board: how do I brain map?

The easiest way to start brain mapping is to grab a pen and paper. Write your prompt in the middle of your paper and circle it. From there, write down any immediate ideas that come to mind, and then connect them back to the prompt by drawing a line between each idea and the prompt. From there, look at each idea individually. Do additional thoughts, examples, or arguments come to mind? Connect them to the original idea. As you do this, you’ll create a map that fills your entire paper. At the end, see if you can draw additional connections between sub-ideas.

Once you have your map, you can see if a general flow arises. From there, you can then create an outline for your paper, and then write said paper!

What’s an example of a brain map?

Here’s an example of a brain map using this very article! It’s very simple, but it gives you an idea of how you can visually organize the thoughts in your brain!

Your research is done, and your ideas are mapped with solid connections — now what? Use the BibMe plagiarism checker to help prevent unintentional plagiarism and cite your sources! BibMe citing tools include an APA reference generator, an MLA citation guide, a Chicago style citation maker, and other resources

5 Writing Hacks to Kick-start Your Next Paper

We’ve all been there: you’re assigned an essay, you turn on your computer, and then you sit in front of a blank screen for 20 minutes. You ask yourself, “Where do I even begin?”

There are times you might feel stuck or completely overwhelmed by a prompt. That’s okay! It happens to everyone, but fear not! By using one of these hacks, you’ll kick-start your next paper in no time.

Sometimes just playing with words can kick-start ideas for your writing. has fun and comprehensive grammar guides that cover everything from demonstrative pronouns and examples of adverbs to the definition of interjection!

Hack #1: Make a brain map

Instead of focusing on writing, draw! It can be boring to look at a monolith of words. By making a brain map, you can identify what ideas, keywords, and sources you’ll want to potentially include in your paper.

There are a lot of ways to make a brain map. One method is to write the prompt in the center. From there, write any associated ideas around the prompt, and then connect these ideas to the prompt with a line. Continue drawing branches out from each idea, adding examples, arguments, connections, and sources. By the end of your brain mapping session, you’ll have a sense of how various ideas connect.

Hack #2: Type headlines into your document

Outlining is a common tool in essay writing and an impactful way to organize your paper. An outline allows you to get a sense of the flow of your paper, and to see if you’re connecting ideas in a way that makes sense. But sometimes, you might feel like your outline isn’t fully fleshed out or that you need to write a thorough outline before you can start writing.

A hack you can use to get around that feeling is to type headlines for the main ideas you want to include in your essay. By typing in all your headlines first before typing, you can use them as guideposts for your paper and ensure that you’re happy with the overall structure.

Your headers can just be key phrases or something more structured like “Main Idea 1: ____.”  As you type, you can see how much you need to write for each section, and you’ll slowly but surely fill in the gaps.

Check out a BibMe research paper outline example for inspiration!

Hack #3: Don’t write in order

Speaking of filling in the gaps, there’s no rule that says that you must write your introduction first. An effective way to kick-start your paper is to write the section you feel most confident about first. Once you have that section down, it’ll be easier to write the rest of your paper. 

One caveat about this hack is that you do need to ensure that your paper flows nicely before you submit it. Be sure to carve out some time at the end to review your paper’s overall flow.

Hack #4: Use citation tools

Citation tools are an awesome way to kick-start your next paper. By knowing that you have a way to ensure that your writing is up to par, you can focus on creating a rough draft that effectively analyzes ideas and arguments. Afterwards, you can use a paper checking tool to improve sentence structure, check for unintentional plagiarism, and more! Using citation tools allows you to completely keep your initial focus on the meat of your paper. creates citations automatically in thousands of styles, including APA reference format, MLA citation format, and Chicago citation format, too!

Hack #5: Write with a pen and paper

Nowadays we’re so used to typing that sometimes we forget that we can also write with a pen and paper. If you’re feeling stuck, a hack you can use to kick-start your paper is to start writing your essay by hand. As you write by hand, don’t worry about re-writing: just focus on getting some words down onto paper. 

This hack is effective because it’s easy to delete words or phrases as we type. Though convenient (can you imagine using a typewriter to write your essays?), it’s too easy to self-edit. Convenient self-editing means you don’t get to see your progress. With a pen and paper, however, you can see how many words you’re actually creating yourself. Sure, you may not use every single word, but you have physical evidence of your progress. And that can be enough to get you writing!

And those are five writing hacks you can use to kick-start your next paper! Happy writing!

10 Words You’ll Want to Cut Out of Your Next Paper

One of the best tricks for improving your writing is to take a look at the vocabulary you use. As you advance and become a better writer, your choice of words should continue to improve and become more versatile and sophisticated as well. Along the way, there are a few words that you should seriously consider cutting down on using – or cutting out altogether!

1.  You

In everyday speech, we use the second person quite often, either to directly address someone or to represent an amalgamation of any readers or people other than the writer/speaker. For informal writing or something addressed at a specific reader (like this blog article!), it’s okay to use. However, in formal writing, the use of “you” (pronoun) and its variations will weaken the essay. “You” is too informal for academic or business writing, and “you” sentence constructions (i.e., “you can see that X is true”) are less decisive than simpler sentences (i.e., “X is true”).

2. Really/Very

“Really” (adverb) and “very” are the supermarket cupcakes of descriptive words: they’ll do the trick, but they’re so bland and non-specific that nearly any other word would be an improvement. There are plenty of other words that can be used to intensify a noun or adjective without having to resort to that boring old “very” or “really.”

3. Sort of

When you’re writing an essay, you want to sound authoritative on your topic of choice – that’s the entire point, right? “Sort of” undercuts your knowledge from the get-go: it’s a wishy-washy phrase that creates wiggle room where you don’t want there to be any. If you need to describe an ambiguous situation, try for a more specific description of that particular ambiguity. Note: this goes for other variations like “kind of” as well!

4. Just

This is the perfect example of another wishy-washy weasel word that allows a writer to be non-committal or downplay their own points. Whenever you’re tempted to insert “just” into a sentence, resist the urge and read the sentence without “just” in it. Does it still make the same point you intended? Great. If not, it might be one of those rare moments where “just” is actually necessary (to make a contrast, perhaps); in that case, you have full permission to use it.

5. Irregardless

There’s one very good reason not to use this word: it’s not actually a word. As a writing instructor, even at the college level, this was quite possibly the single most common word-choice mistake I saw. “Regardless” is the word you’re looking for; “irregardless” does not exist.

Spare yourself (and your professors/classmates/bosses) the awkwardness.

6. Thing

Much like “really” and “very,” “thing” is a wildly non-specific word that isn’t bad but can be replaced by an infinite number of more specific, more interesting words. Within an academic context, there’s rarely a situation where “thing” (noun) is a better word that some other, more particular noun.

7. Any conjugation of “to go”

This one pops up most often in creative writing, but it may show up in professional or academic work as well. Think about it: what kind of images or connotations does “went” or “goes” conjure up? It’s pretty generic. For instances where you need to convey movement or change, find a different, more vivid word – it’ll give you the freedom to embrace all the connotations and subtle cues that a basic word like “goes” doesn’t have.

8. Amazing

“Amazing” (adjective) has two major downsides. One: it’s become very informal language. It’s the sort of word you might use to enthusiastically describe a meal or a movie to your friends, but it feels like it doesn’t quite fit into a more formal context. The other problem: it’s so common that it’s been watered down. “Amazing” is used so often that it doesn’t have the strength you’re probably looking for.

9. Always/Never

Your parents might have already taught you this one, albeit in a different context. “Always” and “never,” unless statistically accurate from your own research or from a source you cited in your annotated bibliography, have the opposite problem of many of the words on this list: they’re too specific and box you into a statement that is absolute. In reality, absolutes are rare, so not only do “always” and “never” create weak or amateurish writing, but they’re also probably inaccurate.

10. Literally

In its actual definition, there’s nothing inherently wrong with “literally” (adverb) – it’s a great way to express contrast with something figurative. In reality, especially in recent years, “literally” has, ironically, become a figurative expression itself and is too often used as a deliberate exaggeration or a verbal tic.

While you’re improving your writing, make sure your references are included and correct. can help with APA citations, MLA works cited, a plagiarism definition, and more!

How Be Your Bestest Self in Every Cover Letter

Graduating felt pretty sweet, but now it’s time to get down to business and find a job. You might already have a general cover letter and resume, but you can’t send the exact same thing to all the jobs you’re applying to. That’s not going to cut it if you want to stand out and land your dream job.

Instead, try these cover letter dos and don’ts to refine that stock cover letter into a customized piece that truly reflects your unique talents.

A cover letter is an opportunity to make your writing pop — BibMe is here to help you stand out from the crowd! Check out their free grammar guides for info about first person pronouns, adverb examples, and an interjection list. Then, give your cover letter a final touch and run it through the BibMe grammar and plagiarism checker and land that dream job!


Keep it fresh

Write a new/revised cover letter for every job application. You can of course copy and paste a bit between drafts. Just be sure to use the following tips to make it feel tailor-made because a cover letter’s sole purpose is to answer the question: Why am I the best person for this job?

Search keywords

Read over the job description highlighting words specific to the job. Since many employers use software to narrow down huge applicant pools, the more harmony between your cover letter and job description, the better.  

Tip: When searching for keywords, think like a search engine. Which words in the job description are most important for finding the right person for the job?

Your homework

Research the company itself. Is there a specific project or recent news about the company that appeals to you? Do they have a reputation for hiring a certain type of person? Incorporating this information in your letter will further prove you are a good fit and demonstrates a genuine interest in the company rather than treating it like one of a million organizations in your application pile.

Think customer service

Ask yourself the question: What can I do for you?

The entire purpose of a cover letter is to highlight the answers to this question. Because you’ve done your research and collected keywords, you know exactly what they are looking for. Now it’s time to match your personal history and strengths with those needs. Think about everything you’ve done from volunteer activities, part-time jobs, or special school projects and match those with the company’s needs.


Don’t go beyond a page

If your job application was a movie, the cover letter would be the trailer. Keep it short, tight and full of the best you have to offer.

Don’t include your GPA

The same can be said for graduation rank or any other school-related metric unless it is perfect and provides a direct correlation to the job itself. Employers know that great students are not always great employees. Focus your limited space on what makes you the best fit for the position.

Don’t let creativity run wild

Resist the urge to use unusual words, fonts, or phrases. They will make you stand out, but unless you are applying for a highly creative job, you will stick out for all the wrong reasons. Focus instead on the experiences and talents you can lend the company.

Don’t go it alone

Your potential employer should not be the first person to set eyes on your cover letter. No matter how diligent and thoughtful you are, there is bound to be a mistake or two hidden between the lines. Your best bet is to ask someone who has been in the workforce to read over your letter to weed out any potential missteps.

A cover letter is a company’s first introduction to you. With a little extra time, care and research, it can also be the very first step toward your dream job.

You probably won’t need citations in your cover letter, but is there when you’re ready to research. Whether it’s an APA bibliography or MLA citing you are looking for, thousands of styles to choose from (Chicago format, too!) at You can also find help on putting together your annotated bibliography.

Research Habits that Sabotage Your Papers

Research papers are hard work. Don’t sabotage your paper’s grade before it’s even turned in. Help make your research process more efficient and ethical by kicking these four research habits to the curb!

Habit 1: Waiting until the last minute

We all do it. When it’s not something fun or easy, the natural instinct is to keep putting it off until it absolutely has to get done. Starting an essay at the last minute is convenient and temporarily nice, but can stress you out later and won’t help anyone do their best writing.

The answer: Set smaller deadlines for yourself before the teacher’s due date (e.g., outline, research, draft, editing, etc.). This makes the entire process of writing a paper less intimidating and can help you manage your time without resorting to doing it all the night before. Planning ahead means you can rest easier knowing you’re ahead of the game.

Habit 2: Using unreliable sources

“Of course it’s true! I read it on the internet!” is a classic joke for a reason. Always question anything you read online, even when the source seems legit. For example, did you know that some sites put out ads disguised as articles? Also, blogs can be great but be aware of the blogger’s background. Some bloggers are experts in their fields and really know what they are talking about. Others are novices with opinions and no evidence to back them up.

When reading a source of dubious credibility, there are a few things you can do to check if they are reliable. Go to the “About Me” or “About Us” section of an article to learn about the author or site’s authority and background. Scan the headlines and a few other articles of the website to judge if the website is fairly objective or leans toward an agenda. Finally, verify the information you’ve found with another source or two…which brings us to the next tip…

Habit 3: Getting all of your information from one source

Getting all a paper’s information from one source might seem like an easy solution, but what if that source is wrong?

Using multiple sources might take a little more researching time, but it also means more evidence that supports your thesis. It is also the best way to help you present a balanced view of a topic.

Avoid plagiarism and make sure your facts are straight by checking at least two or three sources and citing all the ones you use in your paper. That brings us to the last habit…

Habit 4: Forgetting to cite your sources

Your paper is done, and it is beautiful: double-spaced, a neat heading, the perfect creative title. There’s just one thing missing: parenthetical citations and your works cited (or references) page. The annoying part is all that work you just did will be for nothing if your sources are not cited.

Luckily, this part is easier today than it has ever been before! Citation Machine citing tools can help you easily create MLA citations, APA citations, and more! Just remember that you still need review the tool’s form to see if there’s any information you can add from the source that wasn’t automatically included, like a year of publication (often found in the first few pages of a journal or the very bottom of a website).

Master grammar basics with our free guides that talk about linking verbs, what is an adjective, how to use a preposition, and more!

4 Things English Tutors Wished Their High School Students Knew

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of homework you have for your English class? Do you feel like there’s so much reading you have to do, but you don’t have time for it all? Or do you feel lost when you have to write a paper?

Getting an English tutor can help you succeed in your class. Whether you need help with a book that’s challenging to understand or need help with essay writing, it can be a relief to know that an English tutor can guide you through your class materials and assignments.

Stuck for research paper ideas? Check out to get your beginning going, as well as your ending – BibMe provides comprehensive guides for APA referencing, helps with the MLA citing format, and has a Chicago style citation maker, too.

To help your English tutor help you, keep in mind these four things that English tutors wished their high school students knew:

1. It’s a process

Though you may not become a master of English overnight, by putting in a small amount of effort everyday, you’ll slowly become a better reader and writer. What’s challenging about English is that it isn’t necessarily bound by rules; the language is open to interpretation. By making a conscious effort to improve your English skills bit by bit, you’ll be able to one day look back and realize how much you’ve grown. Be kind to yourself, understand that it takes time to improve, and know that your hard work will pay off!

2. Spend five minutes doing light housekeeping before your lesson

Before a tutoring session, gather all your materials: books, notes, you name it! After you have all your materials, make a list of what you’d like to cover during your session. By doing this light prep work ahead of time, you can maximize your time with your tutor. If you want to be even more helpful, contact your tutor a day in advance to let him or her know what you’d like to specifically tackle. Tutors appreciate it when you give them a heads up on what you want to cover!

3. Be fearless and ask questions

Sometimes you might feel too embarrassed to ask questions because you’re scared that your tutor might judge you. You might be worried that your tutor will think you’re dumb.

Here’s the deal: English tutors know that you have lots of material you have to study not just for English class, but all your classes! It’s totally understandable if you forgot what an independent clause is or struggle with understanding a passage. Your English tutor is there to help you and wants you to feel 100% confident about whatever you’re tackling in class. Tutors love questions because questions allow them to directly help you with your struggles. So when you’re confused about something, speak up!

4. Between lessons, make a note of what’s challenging for you

If your teacher goes over a part of a book that’s confusing or reviews a grammatical concept that makes no sense, jot it down and remind yourself to ask your tutor about it. Make a running list of ideas or concepts that confused you during class. English class can feel overwhelming because you go through a lot of material. By the time you have your tutoring session, you may feel completely lost. By creating an ongoing list of things that are challenging to you between lessons, you can ensure that you go over everything that’s confusing when you’re with your tutor.

By keeping these four things in mind, you and your English tutor can work together to make sure you succeed!

You had a great tutoring session and have a firm grasp of the material — time to get writing! is here to help you avoid unintentional plagiarism and provides free grammar guides that can give you a list of determiners, the definition of interjection, and even tell you how to use a subordinating conjunction.

How to Spell in English: British vs American

Do you walk toward or towards your future? When discussing paint should we use color or colour? Are movies watched in a theatre or theater? Believe it or not, the answers to these questions have nothing to do with grammar and everything to do with geography.

If grammar is still on your mind, try our BibMe Plus paper checker and spot potential grammar and plagiarism issues. After that, build your knowledge with our guides on adjectives, what is a verb, what intensive and reflexive pronouns are, and other grammar topics.

Where do you pledge your allegiance?

Do you want to spell like an American or a Brit? The simple difference between all of our example words is spelling. The spelling on the left is mostly used in the United States and Canada while the spelling on the right is dominant in Britain and countries that are former British colonies. The meaning and grammatical use of the words do not change.

Spelling revolution

If Americans and Brits speak the same language, why is the spelling different? The United States is a country created through revolution. The battle to separate from Britain was both physical and cultural. Noah Webster, the author of the first American dictionary and some of the first American school books, believed that English words should look more like the way they sound. This is different from British English which derives its spellings from other languages like Latin, French or Greek. Example:
  • American check
  • British cheque
  • French cheque

How to remember the difference between English and English

As we mentioned, the U.S. version of a word should look more like the way it sounds, while British English words are often longer and more complex, but there are also some easy to spot patterns between the two countries.

Ize vs. Ise

The “ize” ending is typically used in America and “ise” in Britain Examples:
  • civilization vs. civilisation
  • realize vs. realise

Nse vs. Nce

Americans most often use “nse” while Brits use “nce” Examples:
  • offense vs. offence
  • license vs. licence

Er vs. Re

When Americans write “er” Brits go with “re” Examples:
  • center vs. centre
  • liter vs. litre

-Or vs.-Our

Americans like to keep it short and sweet which makes the “or” vs. “our” ending easy to remember Examples:
  • labor vs. labour
  • neighbor vs. neighbour

The Double “L”

When Americans add a suffix to the end of verbs ending in the letter “L” the single “L” is used while the Brits maintain the traditional double “L” Examples:
  • fueled vs. fuelled
  • traveled vs. travelled

Which spelling should I use?

In order to be understood, it is best to choose the dominant spelling style of the people you are writing for. If your audience is British, you’ll write towards instead of toward. Once you choose one style over the other, stick to it. Consistency is the most important factor in a single document. Tip: Most automatic spell checks on phones and computer programs allow you to select between British or American English There are several words that changed their style when they crossed the Atlantic ocean. Now all you have to do is figure out which is your flavor or is it flavour?
Create MLA citations like the ones below at Need another style? Choose from APA format, Chicago style format, Harvard, and thousands of other styles.

Works Cited

Fogarty, Mignon. “Why Are British English and American English Different?” Quick and Dirty Tips, 3 July 2009,

Fogarty, Mignon. “Why We Have Both ‘Color’ and ‘Colour.’” Quick and Dirty Tips, 14 Sept. 2012,

“Important American And British Spelling Differences You Should Know.” Spreeder, 8 June 2015,

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:
Build Emulate
Construct Frame
Listen Grasp
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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4 Resolutions to Try if You Want to Be a Better Writer

It’s the new year! You know what that means: time to make resolutions! Whether you want to get better grades or exercise more, it’s always great to start the new year with positive intentions and resolutions that are attainable.

If one of your goals is to be a better writer, there are many small ways to do so—and not all of them involve writing practice! Here are four resolutions to consider:

Get your writing off to a strong start this year with the BibMe Plus grammar and plagiarism checker. Find and fix writing errors before your teacher does. You can also refresh your knowledge on verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and other parts of speech.

Goal: Tackle writer’s block / Resolution: Write first thing in the morning!

Do you ever find yourself staring at your computer screen when you have a paper that’s due the next day? Do you hope that the words will magically come to you, yet your mind remains blank? One of the reasons why you might get writer’s block is that you’re scared what you’ll write will be terrible. Don’t judge your writing before you even start!

One resolution that could help you tackle writer’s block is to begin writing just for writing’s sake. Write without judgment. Once you get into this habit, you’ll find that writing essays will be much easier.

So how do you write for writing’s sake? Get a pen and a notebook. Resolve to write first thing in the morning every day for just five minutes. Every morning when you wake up, open your notebook and write whatever thoughts come to your mind for five straight minutes. Whether you write, “I can’t wait to eat breakfast,” or “Wow, that was a weird dream,” it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re doing the act of writing. Don’t worry about crossing out errors or making sure your writing is logical or even correct. Just scribble down whatever sentences pop into you head.

By doing this, you’ll get comfortable with writing first and editing later. You’ll get used to jotting down words without judgment. The hardest part of writing is getting started, so give yourself permission to just start!

Goal: Improve your vocabulary / Resolution: Learn one new word per day!

Do you find yourself constantly looking up synonyms because you don’t want to repeat yourself? Do you wish you had more varied word choice in your writing?

This resolution is straightforward: resolve to learn one new vocabulary word per day! You might be wondering, “But how do I find new words?” A simple and fun way to do this is to jot down new words you encounter in your daily life. Whether they’re from blog posts or academic journal articles, make a running list of these vocabulary words. For example, let’s say you’re reading an article for class, and you discover seven new words. That’s great! Add them to your list. Seven words is the equivalent to a week’s worth of vocabulary.

When you start this resolution, don’t feel pressured to find a brand new word every day. Spend the first two weeks of the new year creating your vocabulary list. That way, when you start to learn a new word per day, you already have a few to learn!

Also, there are many online websites that have a “word of the day.” If you’re struggling to find words, simply find and bookmark one of these pages and you’ll be set!

Goal: Change up your syntax / Resolution: Read with intention!

Do you think your writing could use more interesting sentence structures? Do you want to add more pizzazz to your writing?

Changing up your syntax while you write is an easy way to spice up your writing. It can, however, feel odd to write a paragraph and then ask yourself, “How do I change the structure?”

One resolution that could naturally improve your syntax is to read with intention while reading other people’s writing. Reading with intention means not only comprehending the content, but also reflecting on how the author is communicating his or her ideas. What makes the writing engaging? What could be improved about it? What is the tone and how did they communicate it? Are the sentences long or short? Did you notice any patterns?

If you specifically read while keeping an eye out for syntax, you can start to see how different sentence structures impact your impression of the content. Make a mental note of what you want to try in your own writing, and then try it!

Goal: Vary your writing style / Resolution: Read different types of articles

Do you want to explore various styles of writing (e.g., writing a casual blog post vs. writing a news article)? Do you want to see how you can address different audiences?

A simple resolution you can adopt to learn how to vary your writing style is to expose yourself to different types of articles. Start by choosing three different types of writing styles. For example, a lifestyle blog, a news source, and an academic journal article. Resolve to read one article from each type of writing style once a week. You can designate Monday as the day you read your favorite blog, Wednesday as the day you read from a news source, and Friday as the day you read from an academic journal. Similar to reading with intention, notice what works for each style and adopt what you like based on what you’re writing!

Bonus Resolution: Start a journal or a blog!

At the end of the day, you become a better writer by writing. Keeping a private journal or blog is an easy way to improve your writing. Plus, it’s fun to reflect back on your memories!

One other writing resolution to make: Cite your source properly. Citation Machine can help! Generate an APA citation, create a reference list using MLA formatting, and learn from an annotated bibliography example.