“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” George Orwell, 1984
Persuasive words have immense power—and with power comes great responsibility. Optimizely even posted a case study of a business who increased their conversion rate by 12.7% simply by changing the language in their call to action.
Carefully selecting words is how cult leaders have built their followings, businesses amass a groupie-like mentality and why some people are better at sales than others. Like we said, with power comes responsibility. Words can evoke emotion, catch attention, seduce, trigger curiosity, build trust…or do nothing at all or even make people glaze over.
Replace the below ‘weak’ words in your vocabulary with their powerful counterpart to boost your business, sales and life!
5 Powerless Words to Ditch for Their Persuasive Replacement
Replace ‘Can’ with ‘Will’
You can do something but will you? When the word can is used, it doesn’t come with confidence. There’s always doubt, which is something you do not want your customers to have when it comes to your products and services.
The next time you’re writing copy for your website, typing out an email, chatting on the phone or having a conversation face to face, think about if you can or will do what you promise.
In the medical and some professional industries, you can get in hot water for making promises or direct statements. Switching out the word will for may or can adds the option for something to possibly not work, which can turn a promise into a possibility. It’s one of those areas you probably don’t want to be using persuasive words too much.
Replace ‘Want’ with ‘Need’
If you had $20 left in your wallet and 30 days until your next paycheck, would you splash on something you want or reserve it for what you need? Needs will always trump wants.
By turning your product or service into a need, you’re saying it’s an essential. It will benefit them and add value to their life in one way or another. For example, a fashion brand may say, “Every girl needs this perfect little black dress in their wardrobe to hug their curves and make them feel irresistible during those unexpected dates and events.” Or, “Do you need top-quality service at the lowest price?”
Replace ‘That’ with ….
That would have to be one of the most overused words in the English language, but is pretty much useless in most situations. Unless you are adding critical information to a sentence, you probably don’t need to use the word at all. Most of the time, it can be excluded altogether or replaced with a much stronger word.
However, don’t be tempted to replace the word that with which. While that should be used to add important information to a sentence, which adds non-crucial information after a comma.
The next time you write a block of text and notice you’ve used the word that, see how each sentence sounds without it. Most of the time, you can cut the fat and axe it. By using too many unnecessary words, minds will start to wander and you’ll lose people too easily.
Replace ‘Just’ with …
Here’s what’s interesting about the word just—it tends to sound like you’re apologising, begging or justifying your actions, which instantly weakens your words. Think about these sentences:
“Just checking in to see how you’re going with your part of the project.”
“I just went and checked on them.”
“Could you just do this one thing for me.”
None of them scream confidence, do they? Another interesting thing about the word just is it’s more likely to be used by women, who have a tendency to apologise more than men—or so studies suggest.
When you’re talking or writing emails, see how often you use the word just. It will help you to remember to back up your statements or justifications with actual reasoning or evoke confidence in your actions. Let’s switch out those sentences from earlier and tweak them a little and see what you think:
“How are you going with your part of the project?”
“I went and checked on them 5 minutes ago.”
“Could you please help me do this.”
Replace ‘Very’ with…
People tend to use the word very (or even very, very) to evoke an overwhelming feeling of something. I am very mad. I was very happy. I was very sad. And yet, these sentences are a little lacklustre and don’t make you actually feel anything.
The perfect replacement for the word very is by replacing it, and the word you’re trying to emote, with something actually describing the emotion correctly. Instead of very sad, you may say disappointed or distraught. Or a replacement for very happy could be exuberant or overjoyed. Think about what you’re actually trying to say, and say it.
There are people in this world who could be spouting utter codswallop, but you believe them anyway due to the confidence they emit from every fibre of their being. These are the people who know how to use persuasive words to say exactly what they mean and ask for what they need without apology.
While switching out the language you speak can be a little tricky, start with what you write. Proofread every email and see if you are getting straight to the point and being direct in what you’re trying to relay or ask. In your subject line, say what you need the person to do or what they need to understand the most from your message—set them up for success. And then, in your copy, reinforce it with strong language. Once you get the hang of your emails, the words should flow more easily in everyday conversations.
Cover image source: Jason Rosewell on Unsplash.