Using precise verbs in the right way helps you write clear and simple sentences.

Verb tense

In the present tense, the action is happening now. The present tense is often easier to read and understand than the past or future tense. It’s the best choice for most content.

The Windows Start screen is uniquely yours, personalized with your favorite apps, people, photos, and colors.
Windows Update installs important updates automatically.

Mood of verbs

The mood of a verb expresses the writer’s intent. Most of the time, use the indicative mood. It’s crisp and straightforward without being bossy. Don’t switch moods within a sentence.

Mood Use for Examples
Indicative Statements of fact, questions, assertions, and explanations—most Microsoft content. Style sheets are powerful tools for formatting complex documents.
Imperative Instructions, procedures, direct commands, requests, and headings for columns that list customer actions. Enter a file name, and then save the file.
To do this        Select this
Subjunctive Wishes, hypotheses, and suggestions—avoid. We recommend that you be careful about opening email attachments.

Active and passive voice

Voice is either active or passive. Keep it active whenever you can.

  • In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action.
  • In passive voice, the subject is the receiver of the action.
Voice Uses Examples
Active Most Microsoft content Divide your document into as many sections as you want.
Office 365 includes the Office 2016 apps for PC and Mac.
  • Avoiding condescending text or blaming the customer, especially in errors, warnings, or notifications
  • Avoiding awkward constructions
  • Emphasizing the receiver of the action
That site can’t be found. Double-check the site address in the Address bar.
When the user clicks OK, the transaction is committed. (in content for developers)

Verb agreement

Verbs have singular and plural forms. Use the verb form that agrees with the subject of the sentence in number.

When the subject is The verb is Examples
A group of things Singular A variety of games is available from Microsoft Store.
Two or more singular things connected by and Plural Facebook and Twitter are available from Microsoft Store.
Two or more singular things connected by or Singular Your tablet or phone is all you need to play your favorite games on the go.
A singular thing and a plural thing connected by or Singular or plural, to match the closest subject Skype or social media apps are available from Microsoft Store.
Social media apps or Skype is available from Microsoft Store.