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Power Words

Keep Your Reader on the Journey with Words That Work

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

Imagine you’re showing a home to some prospective buyers. It has everything they’re looking for and it’s in their price range, but the driveway is full of barriers and the front door is sealed shut. When they finally force their way in, you bore them with a long story about every detail of how the house was built.

If they’re still with you after all that, you know you have some motivated buyers. Chances are, they’re just hanging around because they can’t find their way out.

Is your copy full of roadblocks that keep readers from trying your product? Are you boring them with unnecessary details and stories they don’t care about?

Copy space on the digital landscape is precious real estate. Yes, there is room for longer content, if – and it’s a big “if” – the message is meaningful and is expressed clearly and with impact. Even if you do go long, you can’t afford to waste readers’ time and attention with weak words that just lie there taking up space.

Think of each sentence as a journey you’re asking the reader to take. The words must keep them moving toward the destination you’ve chosen: attending your event, buying your product or taking another action you want. Choose powerful, active words that make the trip worth the effort.

Verbs That Move – and Move Your Customer

They’re called “action words” for a reason; give them some action. It should be an action you want the customer to take or one that states a benefit, with a sense of urgency. Leave no doubt what you want them to do.

  • Weak
    • Try our new collection.
    • Stop by and see what’s new.
    • Don’t miss this event.
  • Powerful
    • Buy now and save up to 50%.
    • Call today for exclusive deals.
    • Get here early before the good stuff’s gone!

Modifiers with Meaning

Adjectives and adverbs aren’t just bits of fluff you add to nouns and verbs to fill out a sentence. They’re partners that strengthen those words by revealing a quality specific to the noun or verb. That’s why empty modifiers like “very” and “great” – even “beautiful” and “handsome” – are useless.

I like to use modifiers that make value propositions come to life:

  • Instead of vague “fast service,” how about “lightning-fast”?
  • Having a sale? Maybe you can offer “sparkling savings on jewelry,” or “sweet deals on holiday candy.”
  • Paint a picture. Your moisturizer doesn’t create merely “soft skin” but “baby-soft skin.” Your hamburgers aren’t just “juicy,” they’re “three-napkin juicy.”

Don’t Overpower the Prose

Not every word has to be revved up. When you’re writing narrative like your LinkedIn bio or the story of your company’s founding, overly fancy words can detract from the more important part of the message. “Said” is fine, unless a verb like “shouted” or “whispered” would add important color. Don’t get pretentious by replacing “said” with “articulated” or some other fancy word.

Dramatic language works in promotional copy but may be inappropriate elsewhere. Promising “a head-spinning 75% off” may bring in customers to your one-day sale; it may be a little overheated for a business proposal.

Takeaway

Your copy is a journey you’ve invited your customers to take. Don’t clutter up the path with boring or empty language; give them a reason to keep traveling with you.