Power words are persuasive, descriptive words that paint a picture for your reader, which elicits an emotional response. Sprinkle in a few powerful words and transform dull, lifeless writing into words that grab your reader's attention. Powerful words aren't pushy or aggressive. They offer a punch from your writing.
And the best part?
You can use them in any type of writing.
Power Words = Words Packed with Visual, Emotional, and Persuasive Charge
Competent writers sprinkle their writing with carefully-chosen power words drenched in sensory details that draw the audience from one emotion to another like a skilled storyteller.
Start by asking: What do you want your reader to feel?
cautious or fearful
encouraged or inspired
sparked with curiosity and wonder
or any number of other emotions
The more powerful your writing, the more a reader will feel and remember what you write.
With great power words come great responsibility.
First, add your personality to give your words an even more significant boost that grabs your reader's attention. Don't try to write like anyone else because that writer's voice is already taken. Find yours through practice. What power words flow naturally from your fingertips?
Then head for the power words—adjectives and verbs. Expand your vocabulary and infuse your writing with an emotional charge.
Tension and Fear Power Words
Watch the news for five minutes, and you'll hear powerful words dripping with fear.
Fear is a powerful emotion that grabs and keeps an audience's attention. That's why the news is sensationalized. Networks charge the news with fearful words that make you worry you might miss something important.
Crank Up the Fear
Words with harsh sounding letters like K, D, T crank up the fear.
Short and abrupt sentences increase tension and worry.
Use less description when creating anxiety or tension.
Pretty compelling, right?
Inspiring Power Words
When most people read, they don't usually have boundless energy and enthusiasm.
They're tired and looking for something that'll spark their interest and wake them up.
The good news? Your writing can do that for them.
Crank Up Encouragement
Words that convey "enough"
Trust and Knowing words
Words that convey hope and understanding
Lustful Power Words
Lust is a core human emotion. Just look at the number of men's and women's magazines at the checkout aisle. Nearly every headline is either blatantly or indirectly about sex.
And it works.
Crank Up Lust
Softer sounding words with S, R, F, M
Words of a sexual or sensual nature
Words that convey desire
Anger Power Words
As writers, sometimes we must fan the flames of anger. Anger power words help you connect with people's anger and slowly but surely work them into a frenzy.
Crank Up Anger
Words that pick at wounds or scars
Short sentence and explosive dialogue
Convey body language through your word choices
Forbidden Power Words
When you were a kid, and someone told you NOT to do something, what did you do? Nine times out of ten, you probably did the thing you weren't supposed to do. Why? Curiosity always gets the better of us. Whenever you want to create interest, sprinkle these powerful words throughout your writing.
The truth is, we're fascinated by the mysterious, forbidden, and secrets. It's programmed into our very nature. As writers, we can tap into this programming.
Crank Up Intrigue and Curiosity
Withhold information from your characters and possibly your reader
Insert challenges, obstacles, twists
Leave your reader with a question
Why should it matter if your verbs are strong or weak? A verb shows the reader what's going on or the action of the story. On the other hand, adverbs compensate for the inadequacies of weak verbs and make a sentence more difficult to read.
On the other hand, strong verbs:
stand out as unexpected and appropriate
paint a substantial visual
evoke an emotional response in the reader
The most robust a verb is, the more it communicates what someone is doing and how they are doing it, without the need of an adverb. However, weak verbs are the easiest to use and communicate very little of what's going on.
When you write, he ran quickly down the hallway; you aren't communicating much of the emotion behind the action. By choosing bolted instead, you show the reader some of the emotion you're trying to convey.
Common verbs like "ran" or "walked" or "smiled" are tempting to use and tell the reader how the subject did something. But what would happen if you chose a strong verb—a showing verb paints a more vivid picture in the reader's mind, making them care about what's happening in your story? Strong verbs add dimension to the character taking action.
These verbs can be used alone or as part of a compound verb, like "are used" or "had been alarmed."
If your sentences need a power-verb boost, tune your writer's mind to these verbs. The more accurate and unusual the verb, the more your reader will pay attention.
Where to use Power Words
With so much competition in the book market, you need a title that stands out and makes a reader want to look inside. Add power words to your titles to get a reader to take notice.
Author Bios & Platform
Your author platform and bio need to be riddled with your personal power words and the power words of the genre you're writing for.
Your author bio has to make readers want to know more about you.
That means your author bio needs to create intrigue, garner attention, and spark interest. And you need to do that in as few words as possible. Think of it as a Tweet. Try to get your bio into 140 characters. Carefully consider each and every word for the power it conveys.
Effective Writers Edit their work.
I always say, Write First. Edit later. In a first draft, use all of the to-be verbs and weak, non-descriptive words and adverbs that you want to get your thoughts on the page. THEN, edit. Editing is the best way to liberally dose your writing with powerful words and phrases. If you want to grab your reader's attention, learn how to write that shitty first draft, and then, edit brilliantly.
All successful authors can't write freely and creatively while they're editing their work.
Write First. Edit Later.
Lastly, notice how other writers use powerful words in their writing. How are they making you feel? Pay attention to what gets your attention and what doesn't. Think about why.
Readers are easily distracted; powerful words grab their attention and keep them engaged in your story—even nonfiction.
Want to learn how to be a better writer? Join the next Writer's Quest.