Power words are like a “cheat code” for boosting conversion rates. Sprinkle in a few, and you can transform dull, lifeless words into persuasive words that compel readers to take action.
And the best part?
You can use them anywhere.
In this post, you’ll learn how to use power words like a kung fu master. Specifically:
- The definition of power words (and why they’re so powerful);
- The 7 types of power words proven to increase conversions;
- Examples of how bloggers, freelance writers, and businesses are using powerful words to boost conversions;
- A huge list of power words you can use, bookmark, and reference (again and again).
Want to bring your ideas to life, to make them take up residence in the reader’s mind, lurking in the background, tugging, pulling, and cajoling their emotions until they think and feel exactly as you want?
Then you’re going to love this post.
Let’s jump in.
What are Power Words?
Power words are persuasive, descriptive words that trigger a positive or negative emotional response. They can make us feel scared, encouraged, aroused, angry, greedy, safe, or curious. Authors, copywriters, and content marketers use “power words” to spice up their content and compel audiences to take action.
Clear as mud?
Let’s deconstruct an example from the great Winston Churchill. All the power words are underlined:
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.
Power Words = Emotional Words Packed with Persuasion
Smart speakers, as well as their speechwriters, sprinkle their speeches with carefully-chosen power words drenched in sensory details, drawing the audience from one emotion to another as skillfully as any novelist or screenwriter.
And it goes beyond speakers and storytellers.
Email marketing messages, copywriting, infographics, step-by-step tutorials, sales pages, inspirational quotes, content marketing, case studies, call to actions, testimonials, tweets, and other social media posts are all designed to influence the reader in some way. You want to pass along information, yes, but you also want the reader to feel a certain way about that information.
Maybe you want to impress them, get them excited, make them cautious, get them angry, encourage them to keep going, or any number of emotions. The better a job you do at making them feel, the more influential you are, and the better your chances of getting what you want.
Looking for a quick way to give your writing more punch?
Maybe add a little personality or pizzazz — that extra little “oomph” that makes your reader pay attention?
Then you need to infuse your content with power words.
The 7 Different Types of Power Words
- Fear Power Words
- Encouragement Power Words
- Lust Power Words
- Anger Power Words
- Greed Power Words
- Safety Power Words
- Forbidden Power Words
We’ve organized our power words into seven different types, which all accomplish the same goal: Each elicits emotion in your reader.
Let’s go over each type and see why these words work.
1. Fear Power Words
Let’s do a little experiment.
Just for a moment, stop reading this post, turn on the television, and go to a major news channel. Watch it for five minutes, listening for the words below.
Chances are, you’ll hear dozens of them. Here’s why:
Fear is without a doubt the most powerful emotion for grabbing and keeping an audience’s attention. To make sure you don’t change the channel, news networks load up with fear words, making you worry you might miss something important.
Granted, you can overdo it, but in my opinion, most writers don’t use these types of words nearly enough. They really do connect with people.
How to Crank Up Emotion with Fear Words
Here’s an example of a blog post headline here at Smart Blogger that utilizes three different fear words:
Open it and you’re greeted by this fear-packed introduction:
I was in
Waves of pain unimaginable shot down my spine, causing every muscle in my body to contract as if I’d been shocked with 20,000 volts of electricity. My back arched up at an unnatural angle. My arms and legs began to shake.
One moment, I was on a webinar talking to a few hundred people about traffic, walking them through exactly how to start a blog and make it popular. The next, everything went dark. I was still conscious, but just barely.
Pretty effective, right?
Here’s another one:
If I’m working from home, will I lose my sanity if I don’t read this post? There’s only one way to find out. (Click!)
Want to sprinkle fear power words into your writing? Here are a bunch to get you started:
2. Encouragement Power Words
Let’s face it.
When they’re reading, most people aren’t exactly bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm. They’re probably bored, maybe a little depressed, and almost definitely tired.
And they’re looking for something, anything, that’ll wake them up and make them feel better.
The good news?
Your writing can do that for them.
How to Crank Up Emotion with Encouragement Words
Here’s an example email from Mirasee:
With two encouraging words — life-changing and magic — in one email subject line, it’s a message that stands out in most inboxes.
Want to give your readers a pep talk and get them charged up again? Want to encourage them?
Use these persuasive words:
3. Lust Power Words
Like it or not, lust is one of the core human emotions.
Just look at the men’s and women’s magazines in the checkout aisle, and you’ll see what I mean. Nearly every headline on the cover is either blatantly or indirectly about sex.
And it works, not just for headlines in men’s and women’s magazines, but for messages to your email list, subheads in your articles — anything.
Editor’s Note: Adding one or two power words to your subheads will compel readers to stick around longer, which will increase your dwell time — a big deal in Google’s eyes.
As a writer, you can use words that inspire lust to make almost anything intriguing.
How to Crank Up Emotion with Lust Words
See if you can spot the lust words in this headline from Cosmopolitan:
Okay, the orange underlines probably give it away, but my hunch is you didn’t need them.
Power words like captivating and love jump off the page. And if you use them properly, they can stir all sorts of emotions in your readers’ heads. (Want to see your click-through rates soar? Add a lust word or two.)
Here’s a lascivious list of descriptive words to get you started:
4. Anger Power Words
As writers, sometimes our job is to anger people.
Not for the fun of it, mind you, but because someone is doing something wrong, and the community needs to take action to correct it.
The problem is, with wrongdoing, most people are pretty apathetic — they’ll wait until the situation becomes entirely intolerable to do anything, and by then, it’s often too late.
So, we have to fan the flames.
How to Crank Up Emotion with Anger Words
The authors of this Forbes headline don’t pull any punches:
I didn’t realize some people get angry over business jargon, but apparently it’s a thing. And this headline, undoubtedly, had such people frothing at the mouth.
If you want to connect with people’s anger and slowly but surely work them into a frenzy, use the power words below.
Just be careful who you target. Lawyers can eat you alive if you pick on the wrong person. 🙂
|Barbaric||Pain in the ass|
|Force-fed||Sick and tired|
|Full of sh*t||Slander|
|High and mighty||Smug|
|Know it all||Terrorize|
|Lying||Up to here|
5. Greed Power Words
The legendary copywriter Gary Halbert once said, “If you want people to buy something, stomp on their greed glands until they bleed.” Graphic, yes, but also true.
Skim through good sales copy on an e-commerce site, and you’ll find a lot of power words based on vanity or greed. Many of them are so overused they’ve become cliché, but that doesn’t stop them from working.
The truth is, nearly every human being on the planet is interested in either saving or making money.
How to Crank Up Emotion with Greed Words
Its explicit and implicit use of greed words makes this popular book from Dave Ramsey a great example:
“Money” is hard to miss — it’s probably the ultimate greed word and it’s sitting there in capital letters.
But a title like “Total Money Makeover” also implies another greed word (even though it doesn’t directly state it): money-saving.
(It also gets bonus points for using alliteration and the safety power word “proven”, which we’ll discuss in a moment.)
If you want to stomp on your readers’ greed glands, use these power words:
|Don’t miss out||Fast|
|Giveaway||While they last|
|Hurry||Sale ends soon|
|At the top||Attractive|
|Wealthy||Ahead of the game|
6. Safety Power Words
Greed isn’t the only emotion you want buyers to feel. You also want to make them feel safe.
They need to trust both you and your product or service. They need to have confidence you’ll deliver, and they need to believe they’ll get results.
Of course, building that kind of trust starts with having a quality brand and reputation, but the words you use to describe yourself and your product or service also matter.
How to Crank Up Emotion with Safety Words
On the landing page for one of our Smart Blogger courses, we use power words to make sure our potential customers feel safe:
In addition to “legitimate” and “guaranteed” in the screenshot above, our landing page is sprinkled with numerous safety words:
They work for us, and they can work for you.
Help your customers feel safe by using as many of these power words as possible:
|Above and beyond||Privacy|
|Fully refundable||Case study|
|No obligation||That never fails|
|No questions asked||Thorough|
|No strings attached||Try before you buy|
7. Forbidden Power Words
Remember when you were a kid, and someone told you NOT to do something? From that point on, you could think about little else, right? Curiosity always got the better of us.
The truth is, we’re all fascinated by the mysterious and forbidden. It’s like it’s programmed into our very nature.
So why not tap into that programming?
How to Crank Up Emotion with Forbidden Words
This Ahrefs article tempts you with its headline:
What’s the “secret”? Only one way to find out.
Whenever you want to create curiosity, sprinkle these power words throughout your writing, and readers won’t be able to help being intrigued:
|Backdoor||Never seen before|
|Banned||Off the record|
|Behind the scenes||Off-limits|
|Remote||Be the first|
|Ridiculous||Become an insider|
|Untold||On the QT|
|Cloak and dagger||Smuggled|
|Confessions||Tried to hide|
|From the vault||Unexpected|
|Under the table||Unlock|
Go Ahead and Tell Me. What Powerful Words Did I Miss?
They’re known by many names…
Emotion words. Good words. Strong words. Powerful words, creative words, sensory words, trigger words, persuasive words, descriptive words, impactful words, interesting words, positive words, unique words, and even — yes, seriously — awesome words.
But whatever you call them; smart, attractive people such as yourself have mastered the strategic use of power words and use them every day to pack their writing with emotion so they can increase conversions.
Yes, this is an enormous list of words, but with so many power words and power phrases available, you’d need a thesaurus or Word of the Day dictionary to catch every single word on the first pass. (Plus, new words seem to be added to the English language every day.)
What are some other good words that seem to have that extra little spark of emotion inside them?