Whenever a person or team discusses a list of objectives to complete, particularly in the workplace, you may hear the term “actioned” enter the conversation. But is that word correct, and, if so, when is it proper to use it?
The American English dictionaries do not formally recognize the verb “actioned,” but British English speakers use it to describe a set of tasks someone has addressed or completed. It has crept into usage, especially in American business English, where you may refer to a list of to-do items and note which of those items someone has concluded or “actioned” and which they have not.
The verb “actioned” may not be a word you rely on every day. However, it is a useful term in some situations. It’s also a word with different variations that can be useful in other contexts. This article will explore the word “actioned” and how you can use it.
What Does “Actioned” Mean?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary does not list “action” as a verb and, therefore, its past tense “actioned” does not appear either. However, in British English dictionaries, “actioned” is the past tense version of the verb “action” (source).
The infinitive form of this term means to deal with a specific problem, chore, or objective.
When you have a list of to-do items, to action one of them means that you’ll address or complete that list item. Thus, the term “actioned” means that you have already successfully finished one of those tasks.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Actioned”?
Because “action” is not a verb in formal American English, it follows that it’s not grammatically correct to use the word “actioned in American English. However, because it’s a recognized verb in British English, it is correct to say “actioned” in certain contexts.
It would depend entirely on the environment in which you are using “actioned” as to whether it is correct or not. For example, it may well be appropriate if you are with British English speakers or in an environment where British English is common.
Although the word has entered American English work environments, the Collins Dictionary rejected its inclusion as a verb in 2012 (source).
The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) lists 14 references to “actioned” compared with 26 uses in the British National Corpus (BNC) (source).
Clearly, “actioned” is not a widespread word, given that these corpora capture millions of words and their frequency lists capture those English speakers use most.
Additionally, many people don’t like to use the verb “actioned” because it’s almost always in the passive voice. Therefore, many writers and style guides recommend avoiding the passive voice whenever possible.
Since the passive voice is one of the most common ways to use “actioned,” those same individuals will likely have a problem with using this word.
However, there are some instances where the passive voice is the more natural option when speaking.
In our example of a to-do list, it’s apparent that each to-do list item will have an action performed on it, rather than being the agent that performs the action. For that reason, “actioned,” in the passive voice, is permissible to use.
How Do You Use “Actioned”?
There are two primary ways to use the word “actioned.” The first and most prevalent way to use “actioned” is as the past tense of the verb “action,” and the second is as a participial adjective where “actioned” qualifies the noun.
Using “Actioned” as a Verb
It’s most common to use the word “action” as a noun, and this applies in both British and American English (source). However, in certain circumstances, you can also use this word as a verb to mean “complete,” “address,” or “perform.”
You can use “actioned” as the past tense version of this verb to indicate actions that have taken place in the past.
Here are a few examples of phrases that use “actioned” as a past tense verb:
- These are the remaining list items that need to be actioned.
- Have you actioned your tasks yet?
- Once these points have been actioned, we will reach our goal.
Each of those sentences includes the word “actioned” as a way to reference a past action taking place. However, as you may have noticed, using this word tends to require the use of the passive voice. However, in the case of “actioned,” it refers to a to-do item that someone has accomplished, so it’s hard to avoid.
Using “Actioned” as a Participial Adjective
While it is most common to use “actioned” as the past tense of the verb “action,” we also see examples where “actioned” behaves like an adjective. It’s not an adjective in the traditional sense, but rather one that we form from the participle of the verb (source). However, it still describes or modifies a noun.
To illustrate how “actioned” can act as a participial adjective, let’s imagine you’re dealing with a list of action items and that some of the items are already complete. It is accurate to call those completed items “actioned” items in such a case. For example, you could say:
- Here is a complete report on our actioned items.
- Could you please review the actioned tasks on our list?
- This list consists of actioned and non-actioned items.
In those contexts, the word “actioned” acts as an adjective describing certain list items. You can use this term to divide the points on your list that someone has and has not addressed into “actioned” and “non-actioned” items. Doing so adds a description to the items on your list rather than stating a past action has taken place.
Using “Actioned” in a Full Sentence
The best way to become familiar with “actioned” as a term is to understand how someone might use it in everyday conversations. Here are a few examples of how you can use “actioned” in a full sentence:
- All items on our agenda have been actioned.
- Before the end of the week, these tasks must be actioned.
- Have you actioned the items on your to-do list?
When Can You Use “Actioned”?
You can use “actioned” any time someone has completed an activity. Prior to that, it is also correct to say the activity has yet to be “actioned.” Remember that it’s most likely to hear it in business environments or where someone is compiling task lists. Also, you should only use it where British English is common.
Whenever you have developed a set of tasks to take care of or challenges to meet, you can use “actioned” to indicate that those tasks or challenges are finished and no longer need your attention.
Most importantly, “action” is a word you should use when referring to something that has happened in the past. Other forms of this verb help when someone will complete something, but “actioned” is the version to use for something someone has already done.
In What Context Can You Use “Actioned”?
Typically, you would only use “actioned” in a British English environment and usually in the context of action items that required completion. This would usually be:
- During business meetings, when discussing an action plan.
- When dividing tasks for a group project.
- While tracking the progress of an ongoing to-do list.
The word “actioned” clarifies which jobs are complete and which still require someone to address them in each context.
When Not to Use “Actioned”
You should not use “actioned” when you are in a formal environment that only recognizes American English because American dictionaries do not recognize the verb. However, even in British English, there are some other instances where it isn’t the right word to choose.
When You have Yet to Action a Task
The most obvious example of this is when you’re working through an action item but have yet to complete it. In those cases, you should say that you are actioning the task. Once you have done your job, you can say you have “actioned” it. Remember that “actioned” is only correct to use when an action has occurred in the past.
When You Want to Avoid Passive Voice
One of the most prominent objections to the word “actioned” is that people often use it when speaking in the passive voice. For example, it’s common to say that a list item has been “actioned” rather than stating who performed the action.
To resolve this, you can either turn it around and state who performed or “actioned” the task — i.e., Katie actioned all the items on the list — or you can avoid using “actioned” and rather employ one of its many synonyms.
When You’re Dealing With a List of Non-Action Items
By now, you know that one of the most common cases where you’ll use the word “actioned” is when dealing with a list of items you need to address. However, not all lists are alike. While some consist of distinct action items, others do not.
As an example, a list item such as “go to the grocery store” is actionable. That means you can say you are actioning that item or say you have “actioned” it once it is complete. By contrast, the list of grocery store items you need to buy is not necessarily actionable.
A grocery list may consist of items like eggs, milk, or bread. Such a list does not consist of actions to complete. As such, it is not correct to say that you have “actioned” each item.
Of course, you can alter such a list by adding verbs at the beginning. For example, listing an action such as “buy milk” rather than simply writing “milk” makes that item actionable. When a list item is actionable, it becomes appropriate to say “actioned” once it is complete.
What Can You Use Instead of “Actioned”
Because of the confusion surrounding its validity as a verb, “actioned” may not feel like a natural word choice, and many people would rather choose an alternative. Here are a few alternatives you can use instead of saying “actioned”:
- Dealt with
- Carried out
- Acted on
While “actioned” is just as effective as any other word that shares the same implication, the words on the list above may be more familiar to you. Therefore, in nearly any situation in which “actioned” is an appropriate word to use, those alternatives will be correct to employ as well.
Is “Actioned” a Word: Is There Such a Word as Actioning?
If we accept that “actioned” is a verb (at least in British English), then we may wonder if “actioning” is also possible. Like other verbs, “action” has multiple forms. For example, the word “actioning” is the present participle of the word “actioned” (source). Here are some examples of the verb action in different forms:
- Infinitive: To action
- Present Participle: Actioning
- Past tense: Actioned
- Past participle: Actioned
Those forms exist for every verb and allow users to alter verbs to fit different contexts. Both “actioned” and “actioning” are participle forms, so let’s explore that a little more.
What Are Participles?
Participles are words that stem from a verb and function as an adjective or that we use to create compound tenses (source). These are either present participles or past participles. Most present participles end in -ing, and most past participles end in -ed, but these rules have many exceptions.
When we use them as participial adjectives, they function as an adjective and modify a noun. Consider the examples below, where participles function adjectivally.
- The crying baby
- The nibbled cheese
- The dirtied shoes
- The running water
When we use them to create compound tenses, we use the present participle to create continuous tenses, indicating that an action is taking place presently. Let’s consider the verb “to travel” in its continuous tenses where “traveling” is the present participle:
- I am traveling to Paris tomorrow. (present continuous)
- I was traveling to Paris when he visited. (past continuous)
- I will be traveling to Paris when you graduate. (future continuous)
Likewise, we use the past participle to create the perfect tenses, indicating that an event happened in the past but is relevant to the present. Now, let’s consider the verb “to travel” in its perfect tenses, where “traveled” is the past participle. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
- I have traveled to Paris once before. (present perfect)
- I had traveled to Paris before the war. (past perfect)
- I will have traveled to Paris before you graduate. (future continuous)
For more on this, read our article “Has Been or Had Been: How to Use the Perfect Tense.” Just like other verbs, “actioned” and “actioning” are participle forms of the verb “action.”
“Actioned” may not be a word you use a lot, but in certain contexts, it can be appropriate to use. The word “actioned” states that someone has completed a task or properly addressed it. Next time you note which of your to-do items are done and ready to cross off your list, “actioned” is a word you can consider.
Always remember that it’s important to know if you are using American or British English because, although they’re the same language, there are some nuances of meaning between the two.