Why are some sentences inspiring while others have the charisma of a wet rag?
Previously, we debunked the claim that communication is mostly an intellectual activity. Often, what you’re saying is less important than how you’re saying it. For instance, a UCLA study showed that gestures account for more than 50% of the impact the speaker has on their audience. What’s more, it also concluded that tone of voice accounts for 93% of the overall impression of the auditorium. Surprisingly, words only make up 7%.
Luckily, both the tone of voice and the way you construct sentences can be controlled.
We already explained how the 75 years old writing advice by George Orwell can boost your microcopy. Now, we’ll show you another neat trick – this time to make your messages more powerful and energetic.
Making Your Messages Powerful
In verbal communication, coming across as confident depends on personal presentation skills. Traits like a powerful voice or effective gesturing can make or break a speech (or even a job interview).
In textual communication, certain words, phrases, or structural choices will have a similar effect on the audience’s perception.
Let’s look at specific examples.
1. Avoid (Un)Certain Modal Verbs and Words
The advice we’re going to give you will probably help you!
Sounds convincing, right?
If you’re aiming to sound confident, avoid words that undermine it.
This is especially important for content that’s supposed to sell or convince somebody to perform a given action. Using words that soften your message will do everything but help. One of the all-time bads are modal verbs expressing possibility or likelihood (might, could, and similar).
You probably stumbled upon an apology that sounded something like this before:
First off, I would like to say how sorry I am.
Well, fine. Then why didn’t you? Because instead, the message could just say:
Overall, if you’re not forced to use a word indicating probability, avoid it. It’s not only watering down your message but also increasing the length of your text. And microcopy should be short and concise.
After all, the name would be otherwise very, very misleading, wouldn’t it?
2. <Yawn> Eliminate Energy VampiresSome words and phrases are like Colin Robinson from FX's What We Do in the Shadows. As soon as you encounter them, they’ll rob you of any enthusiasm. For example:
We put a special emphasis on a well-managed software development process.This sentence is as boring, unenergetic, and vague as it gets. Luckily, you can make it at least slightly better without much effort. Instead of writing “software development process”, shorten it to “software development”. The meaning will remain the same. Where possible, get rid of unnecessary pseudo-formalities that don’t add anything to your message. Kill all the “we’re working in the Scrum methodology“, “we use the Java programming language” and all the other “work optimization processes” of this world. This way, you’ll elevate your microcopy instantly. We’re working in Scrum. We use Java.
3. Use Power WordsAfter eliminating the bad, it’s time to add the good. An example of the latter are power words. On one hand, power words can trigger a psychological or emotional response in the reader. On the other hand, they are a way to make your writing overall good and easier to read. What’s more, power words enable to shorten the messaging. For instance, instead of saying “make it better”, you can say “boost”, “transform”, “strengthen” or “elevate”. With power phrases, you can convey the same message, but stronger and more convincingly. Sometimes you might get stuck looking for the perfect power word. But there’s some good news. The internet is filled with long lists of the ideal power phrases that will transform your writing. Some lists contain non less than… 800 ready-to-use power verbs. So, don’t say:
Make your customer relations better.Say:
Strengthen your customer relations.