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The Language of Meaningful Content

The Language of Meaningful Content

“I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.” David Ogilvy

Writers use words with intent. They understand that the language needs to support the purpose of the document: informing, entertaining, persuading or educating. Ad people realise that certain words have an emotional connection and will use it when they communicate with their target market. Using these words in your company communication will go a long way to connecting with your customers.

According to many websites and writers who position themselves as language specialists, there are top words that you should use to persuade people to buy your product or service.

These words are (in descending order of importance or popularity):

  1. You
  2. Money
  3. Save
  4. New
  5. Results
  6. Health
  7. Easy
  8. Safety
  9. Love
  10. Discovery
  11. Proven
  12. Guarantee

I have seen these words on many blogs and training manuals. The list has been accredited to a Yale University research. (FYI: I am not sure where these people received their information. Yale did not conduct any research and the origins of this list is unclear.) However, looking through this list, it is obvious that they are relevant in creating an emotional connection.

Top of the list, YOU, is an important word to keep in mind when trying to persuade people to use your product or service. For example, FNB’s “How can we help YOU” is direct and answers the question to the problem many people have with banking.

David Ogilvy, well-known advertising executive, put together a list of words used in persuasive language in his book Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963). These words still have relevance in today’s world of competitive wordsmithing.

Suddenly                           now                               announcing
introducing                       improvement              amazing
sensational                        remarkable                  revolutionary
startling                             miracle                         magic
offer                                    quick                             easy
wanted                               challenge                      compare
bargain                               hurry

According to Ogilvy, ‘The two most powerful words you can use in a headline are FREE and NEW. You can seldom use FREE but you can almost always use NEW – if you try hard enough’.

Unfortunately, the modern customer knows that there is no such thing as FREE so this word will have limited influence unless used in the correct context. And even then, I wonder how many people will connect with the word with anything other than scepticism.

Although both lists contain different words (except for NEW and EASY), the words all have positive connections and persuasive qualities.

Although you have a list of persuasive words, this does not mean that they will always be effective. It is important to follow Ogilvy’s advice given in the quote at the beginning of this post: ‘use your customer’s language’.

Ask the following questions to determine which words will work for your copy:

  1. What are the benefits of your product or service?
  2. How will your customer connect emotionally to your value offering (that is, how will they feel using your product or service)?
  3. Does your value offering deliver on your promise (that is, if your product is EASY to use it must be EASY to use)?

With practise, you should discover which words will work for your business and which will connect emotionally with your customers.

Ulrike Hill is a business and creative facilitator. She also helps companies inject creativity into their business documents. 
Contact writer@ulrikehill or call +27 71 636 8028.