To assess how much work a manuscript [or cover letter] needs, run your finger down the page and check only the verbs. Do they summarize the content? If not, they need work. Go through again and mark
- Passive voice,
- “To be” verbs,
- Verbs (particularly “make” or “do”) followed by a noun derived from a verb (e.g., “make a decision” rather than “decide”),
- Verbs dependent on adverbs (e.g., “went quickly” rather than “hurried” or “raced”).
The rules of good writing certainly apply to cover letters — and resumes for that matter. Here’s a tip from WRITER’S WEB WATCH (published by WritingThatWorks) covering four verb issues to watch out for.