If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to kill your copy faster than a cruise missile with a vendetta, it’s being boring.
And if you’ve ever snored your way through a TV ad…or bounced off a stodgy landing page, I’m sure this piece of information doesn’t surprise you. But have you ever taken the time to think about what it takes to NOT write boring sales copy?
Because the truth is, writing entertaining, engaging copy is pretty damn hard! I should know…I’ve been trying for several years and I’ve still got a long way to go.
But putting my copywriting shortcomings aside, I wanted to share one of the biggest ways I’m attempting to become a better writer. And that’s by digging into how A-List copywriters sprinkle a healthy dose of conversion magic onto their sales copy – in the form of “Power Words”.
So, what are Power Words?
A power word is a single word (or short phrase) that packs more punch than the average, run-of-the-mill language we use day to day. It adds the all-important energy, drama and excitement you need in your sales copy, to…
- Capture attention…
- Maintain pace…
- Pour rocket fuel onto your sentences…
- And increase your conversion rates!
But before I dive into the detail…
First let me share the source of my information. Everything I’m about to share comes from hour after hour of studying proven pieces of sales copy – written by the masters like John Carlton, Clayton Makepeace, Carline Anglade-Cole and Gary Halbert (to name but a few).
It comes from time spent collating and dissecting individual lines of copy, in an attempt to understand the words these writers use to hold attention and increase sales. And in case you fancy nerding out on word magic, here’s a quick step-by-step run-down of my process for collecting and using A-list-approved Power Words:
Step 1 – Choose a piece of control copy from a copywriting master. (A control is a winning piece of promotional copy, which is known to have generated a significant number of sales. We study controls because we know they worked. And so it’s worth understanding the secret to their success).
Step 2 – Read your control from cover-to-cover. Now, I have to admit, I’m terrible at “just” reading anything (especially if it’s a 30-page promo). But it’s a good idea to read through your control before you start dissecting it. That’s because reading from start to finish gives you a better sense of the rhythm, word patterns, and sentence structure etc.
Step 3 – Re-read the control, sentence by sentence, noticing any powerful words of phrases. If you come across an expression that sounds high-impact – jot it down. I keep my Power Words safely-logged in a spreadsheet.
Step 4 – Create a system for organising your Power Words. Personally, I like to group mine by markets such as – Financial, Biz Op, Health, Beauty and Personal Development etc. Plus I keep a separate tab in my Googlesheet for more general Power Words, which can be used across any market.
Step 5 – Each time you sit down to write a piece of copy, open up your Power Words spreadsheet. And when you get stuck on a wimpy word, consult your list and replace your bland vocabulary with one of the Power Words you’ve collected. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can make your ho-hum copy sound epic!
Here’s a Look at a Small Section of
My Power Word Log
Is this OTT nerdy? Yes. But does it save me time and help me to write higher-energy copy? You bet it does!
Now, if you’re a business owner I wouldn’t expect you to go to these uber-nerd lengths to figure out how to write better copy. That’s my job! Which is why I’m now going to share the 8 main types of Power Word – so you can razz up your own sales copy…without spending hours studying controls or building your own Word Geek Thesaurus.
So, without further delay let’s jump into…
The 8 Types of Power Word that can transform your
sales copy from stale to can’t fail - in minutes!
By my estimations there are 8 types of power word, which I have named terribly for the purposes of this article.
- Power Verbs – Normal verbs are action words that express movement or what someone is doing (e.g to walk, to eat, to sing etc.) But not all verbs are created equal. There are bland, lazy verbs like…’put’ and there are power verbs like ‘thrust’.
What sets a Power Verb apart from a lazy verb? It’s the level of energy and specificity that’s encapsulated in the word.
If we look at a word like ‘put’ – you could use it in hundreds of sentences to express various different ways of placing an object on a surface. Or you could replace ‘put’ with a word like ‘THRUST’ to speed up the action and add drama to the motion.
Here’s the thing…
Most writers are lazy. And they’ll settle for the simplest, most obvious words that spring to mind. That’s OK when you’re in flow-writing mode. But when you come to edit your copy, take a look at where you’ve made-do with a lazy verb. Then swap it out for a more energetically-accurate and situationally-specific verb.
Examples of power verbs: turbocharge, boost, propel, plummet, skyrocket, eliminate
2. The Power Verb Squared – Think your Power Verb is powerful enough? Think again! You can take your Power Verbs to a whole ‘nother level by adding an extra layer of description to the action.
The Power Verb Squared takes a verb and adds visual richness to it, to make it easier for the reader to imagine the action as it takes place.
Examples of power verbs squared: disappear before your eyes, beat the pants off, vanish into thin air, spin off profits like crazy, take off like a moon rocket
3. The Power Adjective – In case you fell asleep during English lessons, here’s a quick explanation of what an adjective does. An adjective is a describing word. It adds colour and detail to nouns (or things).
As with verbs, there are limp adjectives and Power Adjectives. In fact, some novelists like Voltaire and Collyer famously despised ALL adjectives! According to Voltaire, “The adjective is the enemy of the noun.”
(Now, now Voltaire. Let’s not get personal).
Regardless of your opinion on adjectives, you can still use them in your copy, as long as you’re careful which ones. So let’s start with this simple rule of thumb:
No adjective is better than a weak adjective
But if you must use an adjective to describe any THINGS (or nouns) in your sales copy – make sure you pick a heavy-duty adjective which adds energy and vibrancy to your sentence…instead of dragging it into the doldrums.
Examples of power adjectives: Optimum, privileged, elite, exclusive, first-class, topflight, explosive, unstable, violent
4. The Verb Masquerading as a Power Adjective – if you can’t stomach an adjective, but you still want to add colour to your nouns or “Thing Words” – why not try a Verb Masquerading as a Power Adjective.
(There’s probably a proper grammatical term for this, but I don’t know what it is…and frankly I don’t know what term to Google to find the answer).
In the absence of a way to explain how or why these types of phrases work so well, let me show you an example so you can decide for yourself which sentence is more exciting and engaging:
The lady wore a beautiful dress
The lady wore a show-stopping dress
I don’t know about you, but I know which sentence got my attention! Hint: it was the one with the verb masquerading as a power adjective.
Examples of verbs masquerading as power adjectives: Sought-after, profit-making, engagement-driving, power-packed, record-breaking, eye-popping, jaw-dropping, show-stopping
5. The Noun Masquerading as a Power Adjective (or metaphors) – As above, you can enhance adjectival blob-words by replacing them with different parts of speech to make them stronger.
So why not mix up your describing words by replacing adjectives with descriptive nouns like:
Turn your body into a steroid-pumping machine (AKA – get big)
Needle-in-the-haystack strategy (AKA rare and really good)
Become an ancient warrior (AKA get strong)
The reason this works is because adding a familiar object to an adjective, allows readers to conjure up a better visual of whatever it is you’re describing. It also adds context and specificity to an adjective.
Examples of nouns masquerading as power adjectives: change you at a cellular level, grow like a teenager, train-wreck losses, profit bonanza
6. Similes – Similes are phrases that compare an adjective to a known Thing, to make it easier to dimensionalise. They work by giving us something concrete to visualise. E.g Black as soot.
But beware! The most common similes (like the one above) are as boring as plain ol’ adjectives. That’s because we hear them so often, that they no longer trigger the visualisation effect we need to make an impact.
So…I’m sorry to say you need to invent your own.
Now, one of my favourite sources of inspiration for similes is TV’s Blackadder. Rowan Atkinson is the master of hilarious comparative words and phrases. Like…
- As cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University
- Your brain is so minute, Baldrick, that if a hungry cannibal cracked your head open, there wouldn’t be enough to cover a small water biscuit
- There hasn’t been a way run this badly since Olaf the Hairy King of all The Vikings ordered 80,000 battle helmets with horns on the inside
Watch this clip for more:
7. Power Emotions – Sales copy is all about understanding human emotions, and tapping into them to trigger action. The trouble is, naming human emotions in your copy can come across lazy and weak.
Which is where Power Emotions come in. A Power Emotion is where you express the emotion through an action.
Jump for joy
Faint with envy
Boil over with rage
Fart with excitement (my 6-year old son insisted I add this one)
As opposed to:
I am happy
I am envious
I am angry
I am flatulent excited
8. The Power Adverb – Much like adjectives, adverbs have a bad rep when it comes to writing copy. In fact, some might tell you to avoid them completely. (An adverb is a word that adds colour to a verb or adjective).
I actually like adverbs. But they must be used in the right way in order to have any impact. It’s best to avoid the most common adverbs like, very and really. These words weaken your sales copy.
But it’s OK to use high-impact adverbs like:
You can also use adverbs in surprising ways, which help add strength to weaker adjectives like:
- Embarrassingly cheap
- Childishly simple
- Uncannily accurate
If, after learning all you need to know about Power Words, you now feel like your brain’s melting – then why not get me to write your copy for you?
Simply fill in an application >>HERE and I’ll take the copy hassle well-and-truly off your plate – while delivering a delicious dollop of conversion goodness before you can say ‘Where’s the dough?’
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