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Saturday, January 12, 2013

The 5 Most Persuasive Words in the English Language | Gregory Ciotti, Copyblogger

I've seen lists of persuasive words before, words that, when used effectively, can help persuade people to think or feel or act in certain ways. But usually, those lists don't provide much explanation about why those particular words are persuasive.

The short list in this article does that. It also includes links to studies related to the power of each word.

Ciotti writes:
I can’t stress enough — just as in the application of writing headlines that work — you must understand why these words are persuasive, and you must use them in the contexts that make sense for your audience and your business. If you just start slapping them on every piece of content you create for no apparent reason, you’ll quickly see just how unpersuasive they can be.
Now, I'm going to do what I see too often, simply list the words. But please understand why these words are effective and how to use them effectively by reading Ciotti's column:
  1. you
  2. free
  3. because
  4. instantly
  5. new
My online editorial style manual provides advice on using four of the words:
you By using the pronoun you, you suggest immediacy and directness between you and your reader. But make sure you and the reader know who you is. And avoid using you if it sounds accusatory or insulting. Also, always use a plural verb with you, even when you is singular, referring to only one person: Nate, I know you are sick. You alone have understood. You both are busy
free As an adverb, free means "for nothing." So for free is usually redundant; drop for. Also redundant is free gift; drop one word or the other.
because The "rule" against beginning sentences with because is a myth. Use because to introduce dependent clauses; that is, the clause beginning with because could be dropped from the sentence, and a complete sentence would remain. 
A comma is not always needed before because. Negative wording, however, often need the comma to clarify which part of the sentence because modifies, as in these examples: He didn't go to the workshop, because it conflicted with his work schedule. He didn't go to the workshop because he had to; he went to it because it met his needs. In the first example, you can drop the clause, and the sentence is still true. In the second example, the sentence's meaning depends on the clause. 
because, since Both words can be used to mean "for the reason that." Because is the stronger conjunction for pointing out a direct cause-effect relationship: They went to the concert because they had been given ticketsSince is milder in suggesting a cause-effect relationship: Since I love folk music, I went to the concert. When readers might confuse since with its meaning "from the time that," use because
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Ciotti's article is featured today in my daily online paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communications, available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

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