I've just, without much fore thought, used the word "actioned" in the following (example) context, and am now wondering if it's valid (upon a re-read I've decided I don't like the way it sounds, hence the question).

1000 emails needed some kind of action, 800 of which were actioned by the team while the remaining 200 were escalated.

I can think of (what I feel is) a better word to replace "actioned" in this case - either "processed" and "completed" should do it - and my spell checker doesn't like "actioned", so I'm wondering if the word is valid? If it is, is my above example a valid usage?

  • 4
    You can't action emails, you can only action on asks. (^_^)
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 12:56
  • Fore thought? Forethought?
    – user146752
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 1:20
  • I've heard this word twice as a verb only today, both in British English. I've never heard it in AmE. Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 4:08
  • Not in my universe it ain't. 800 of which the team acted on and 200 of which were escalated. geesus.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 19:52

9 Answers 9


This use of "action" as a verb is very common in business contexts, so it's very hard to argue it's invalid, but as both your reaction and Robusto's indicate, many people find it awkward, jarring or just plain ugly; for this reason you may wish to avoid using it (although in an internal report in the sort of company where people talk like that, it would be entirely appropriate to do so...).

Other possible replacements:

  • taken care of
  • dealt with
  • carried out
  • acted on
  • performed
  • processed
  • 7
    Ah, I think you've hit the nail on the head here - essentially it's not in common usage, except as management-speak. In which case, I shall continued to try and avoid using it; just need to teach my fingers not to type it when I'm not looking...
    – DMA57361
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 13:46
  • 1
    bullfrog answer. it is in common usage, is neither awkward, jarring or ugly. It is just a word.
    – aaa90210
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 21:30
  • 2
    @aaa90210: That's a matter of opinion :-) You're right it's in common use - that's a fact - hence why I said it's not invalid. But it's also a fact that lots of people do find it ugly, and if you want those people not to find your writing ugly, then you may want to avoid it. Just because you're not one of those people doesn't mean they don't exist ;-)
    – psmears
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 6:16
  • 4
    Business English may be the worst definition of what valid English is. The people sprouting it have exactly the wrong agenda (marketing as opposed to facts, trying to sound sophisticated). E.g. "Leverage" used as a verb, "Incentivize", and "Revert" used to mean "reply". Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 10:05

English has a long history of turning nouns into verbs, but this one feels just awkward.

I'd suggest "acted on" instead of "actioned" here, or some other word or construction.

You could say something like:

1,000 emails needed some kind of action, 800 of which were tackled by the team while the remaining 200 were escalated.

Tackle in this case means to

make determined efforts to deal with (a problem or difficult task) : police have launched an initiative to tackle rising crime.

Speaking of that, you could use "dealt with" in place of "actioned" there as well.


Since escalating a problem is also an action, I'd hunt for a word or phrase that describes what the team did with or about those messages that were NOT escalated. In the absence of a better choice, I'd use "resolved", or "handled".


I would guess that "action" as a verb is a back-formation from "actionable", which is a word a long history. The formation would arise from this perfectly reasonable thought: if something is "actionable", that means you must be able to "action" it, right?

However, action as a verb is not listed in any of the major published dictionaries I looked in, nor are there any examples of actioned in the Corpus of Contemporary American English.

Interestingly, in the Google ngram for 'actioned', there was a large surge of usage in the mid-19th century that dropped to a trickle until a new surge starting in the early 1980s. Most of the 19th-century examples seem to be related to horses ("Before dismissing the horse stock, we must not omit to notice a fine-actioned grey colt, bred by Lord Hastings") and guns ("Patent double-actioned high-pressure sky-blue revolvers").

ngram for 'actioned'


Business jargon is often awkward in everyday speech. This is certainly a prime example.

The best commonplace verb to replace actioned in this sense would probably be the good ol' utilitarian handled. It may not sound as exciting as tackled, but it's simply the fact rather than the embellishment.

I also wouldn't recommend processed, although at first glance that seems a good substitute, because processed could simply mean filed or otherwise not really handled. One can process a form without taking a single action requested on the form.


To action is also legal term - if you actioned someone, you took them to court

But I did find actioned here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/actioned

to put into effect; take action concerning matters decided at the meeting cannot be actioned until the following week

  • 3
    Hmmm... I think it's clear that whatever the intended meaning is, "take the e-mails to court" probably isn't it... Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 13:32
  • Why was it important to downvote this without a comment as to why?
    – mplungjan
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 8:20

The difficulty with answering this question is that there are two different strands to it. Actionable is a word with a respectable history, in both British and American English: unfortunately, in this sense it is a technical legal term, meaning "an action at law will lie". This is not the same as illegal, but is similar to tortious; e.g. "Firing people because of their age is actionable". [IANAL]

There is another sense, 'able to be acted upon'. This is much more American than British, but is in the OED with citations from 1913 (as opposed to 1601 for the legal sense). It is not much used formally because of the potential for confusion, but certainly can be taken as a basis for the back-formation of 'to action'. The word is, however, ugly and probably redundant: I have never seen a use that could not be better handled by act; "800 of them were acted on by the team."

So you can reasonably defend yourself if accused of employing a non-existent word, but in practice it's probably better to find an alternative.


I believe that this term might be a North American term, hence why it seems to be rejected by my spell checker. I have used this term on one or two occasions, but I might have heard it used in some U.S programs over the years.

  • I'm presuming you don't normally speak American English?
    – Luke_0
    Commented Nov 3, 2012 at 14:17
  • I've never heard it in AmE (native speaker), only in uses in British English--both spoken and written and in a business/administrative context. Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 4:07

I don't think actioned should be considered as a valid word, atleast that's my conclusion from the example you gave us.

Consider the following sentences.

1000 emails needed action, 800 of which got action from the team.


1000 emails needed processing, 800 of which were processed by the team.


1000 emails needed tackling, 800 of which were tackled by the team.


1000 emails needed completion, 800 of which were completed by the team.

I hope you see the pattern here, actioned would be said in the following case:

1000 emails needed actioning, 800 of which were actioned by the team.

that either proves actioned is not a valid word or raises another question, is actioning a valid word?

  • Agree: "is actioning a valid word?" - it seems to be quite common.
    – PeterX
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 0:10
  • Sorry. I can't count your ENGLISH answer as credible when you spell "at least" as one word. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 0:57
  • Kitty's criticism about a typo is secondary; this answer doesn't provide any referenced support (or any support at all, really) for acceptability or otherwise. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 18:38

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