Avoiding Basic Verbs
  • 2-minute read
  • 22nd August 2023

Avoiding Basic Verbs

In academic, formal, and even creative writing, it’s often a good idea to avoid basic verbs to describe certain actions, as it can sound clunky, boring, or unprofessional.

The usual culprits, especially in formal and academic writing, are the verbs “do” and “get,” as in “I decided to do research” and “We got a confirmed result.”

Launch the microlearning module below to learn more about alternatives to basic verbs and to test your knowledge using our interactive quiz.



Alternatively, read on for a text-only version of the microlearning.

Alternatives to the Usual

There are several alternatives that you can use for the verbs “do” and “get,” although you should use your professional judgment as to whether they are appropriate in any given context.

Thesaurus Mis- and Overuse

One thing you need to watch out for, especially for customers whose English is not fluent, is thesaurus misuse. Customers may have been told that they need to avoid basic verbs or vary their vocabulary, and will trust online thesauri to suggest appropriate alternatives. This can lead to a pick-n-mix of inappropriate, unusual, or anachronistic terms.

Check out the alternatives suggested for “do” at Thesaurus.com, and consider which words could actually replace the verb in “I did some research in biochemical reactions.”

As you’ve probably noticed, most of the so-called closest synonyms won’t actually work in this context. A particular offender here is complete, as in “I completed some research,” when a task or project is still ongoing.

Proofreading Approach

Generally, customers will be happy for you to suggest changes directly to the text. You may wish to leave an initial comment the first time you do so, but it isn’t strictly necessary (use your judgment).

Note that this guidance does not mean you have to avoid basic verbs unnecessarily, nor should you use overly fancy or formal words for the sake of it. Just consider whether you would use the basic verb, given the context, and apply a suitable alternative.

Although this is not strictly proofreading in the traditional sense, it is part of the service offered at Proofed and complies with most universities’ proofreading guidance.


Where appropriate, basic verbs (most notably “do” and “get”) should be changed to an appropriate alternative for customers of Proofed.

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