317 Power Words That’ll Instantly Make You a Better Writer

317 Power Words That’ll Instantly Make You a Better Writer

Ever noticed how some writers have an uncanny ability to toy with your emotions?

Within the span of a few pages, you can go from shaking with excitement to bawling your eyes out to flying into a rage and throwing the book across the room. It’s the hallmark of great writing, proof of mastery of the craft, and the yardstick by which aspiring writers measure their work.

And it goes beyond storytelling.

Sure, taking the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride is essential in novels and short stories, but what about emails, resumes, blog posts, proposals? They’re all designed to influence the reader in some way. You want to pass along information, yes, but you also want the reader to feel a certain way about that information.

Maybe you want to impress them, get them excited, make them cautious, get them angry, encourage them to keep going, or any number of emotions. The better a job you do at making them feel, the more influential you are, and the better your chances of getting what you want.

So, you might wonder… how?

The world is full of people who can scribble down their ideas, but to bring those ideas to life, to make them take up residence in the mind of the reader, lurking in the background, tugging, pulling, and cajoling their emotions until they think and feel exactly as you want? That’s a rare skill indeed.

The good news is it can be yours. There’s even a shortcut.

How to Instantly Become a Better Writer

It’s simple:

Use power words.

Rather than describe what I mean, let’s deconstruct an example from the great Winston Churchill:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Inspiring, right?

Well, there was a lot on the line. Under attack from Germany, Britain was fighting for its survival, and somehow, someway, Churchill had to find a way to inspire his countrymen to greatness.

He chose words. Or, to be more accurate, power words.

Let’s take a look at the passage again, this time with all the power words underlined:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Each underlined word makes the audience feel something. In this case, Churchill intermixes words that cause fear, such as “struggle,” “tyranny,” and “terror,” with words that cause hope, such as “strength,” “God,” and “victory.” The last, in particular, is repeated over and over, practically drilling the emotion into the minds of the audience.

It’s no accident. Smart speakers, as well as their speechwriters, sprinkle their speeches with carefully-chosen power words, drawing the audience from one emotion to another as skillfully as any novelist or screenwriter.

Granted, that’s not all they do. The best writers use an entire tool chest of techniques to create emotion, and power words are only one such tool.

But there’s good news.

For beginning writers, power words are one of the easiest tools to master. Unlike many storytelling strategies which can take years of practice to master, you can start sprinkling power words into your writing, and you’ll notice an immediate lift in the quality of your prose.

All you lack is a list of power words to use, but of course, I have you covered there too. :-)

317 Power Words to Start Using Immediately

For years now, every time I mentioned power words to my students, someone always asked:

“Where can I get a list? Is there a book I can buy?”

Sadly, not that I’m aware of.  That’s why I created this list.

Slowly, over a period of several weeks, I catalogued all the power words that jumped out to me, organizing them into categories based on the emotion you want to create, so you can easily find the right word. In the future, I’ll also update the list, adding new words on a regular basis to make it the most comprehensive list of power words available anywhere.

It costs nothing. All I ask in return is you share it with your friends and readers when appropriate, helping it reach the people who need it most.

Enjoy.

Calling All Fearmongers

Let’s do a little experiment.

Just for a moment, stop reading this post, turn on the television, and go to a major news channel. Watch it for five minutes, listening for the words below.

Chances are, you’ll hear dozens of them. Here’s why:

Fear is without a doubt the most powerful emotion for grabbing and keeping an audience’s attention. To make sure you don’t change the channel, news networks load up with fear words, making you worry you might miss something important.

It’s effective. Granted, you can overdo it, but in my opinion, most writers don’t use these types of words nearly enough. They really do connect with people.

Here’s a bunch to get you started:

Agony

Apocalypse

Armageddon

Assault

Backlash

Beating

Beware

Blinded

Blood

Bloodbath

Bloodcurdling

Bloody

Bomb

Buffoon

Bumbling

Cadaver

Catastrophe

Caution

Collapse

Corpse

Crazy

Cripple

Crisis

Danger

Deadly

Death

Destroy

Devastating

Disastrous

Drowning

Dumb

Embarrass

Fail

Feeble

Fired

Fool
Fooled

Frantic

Frightening

Gambling

Gullible

Hack

Hazardous

Hoax

Holocaust

Horrific

Hurricane

Insidious

Invasion

IRS

Jail

Jeopardy

Lawsuit

Looming

Lunatic

Lurking

Meltdown

Mired

Mistake

Murder

Nightmare

Painful

Pale

Panic

Peril

Piranha

Pitfall

Plague

Played

Plummet

Plunge

Poison
Pummel

Poor

Prison

Pus

Reckoning

Refugee

Revenge

Risky

Scary

Scream

Searing

Shatter

Shellacking

Silly

Slaughter

Slave

Smash

Strangle

Stupid

Suck

Tailspin

Tank

Targeted

Teetering

Terror

Terrorist

Toxic

Trap

Vaporize

Victim

Volatile

Vulnerable

Warning

Worry

Wounded

Give Your Readers a Pep Talk

Let’s face it.

When they’re reading, most people aren’t exactly bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm. They’re probably bored, maybe a little depressed, and almost definitely tired. And they’re looking for something, anything, that’ll wake them up and make them feel better.

The good news?

Your writing can do that for them. Use these power words to give them a pep talk and get them charged up again:

Amazing

Audacity

Backbone

Belief

Blissful

Bravery

Breathtaking

Cheer

Conquer

Courage

Daring

Defiance

Delight

Devoted

Excited
Eye-opening

Faith

Fearless

Fulfill

Grateful

Grit

Guts

Happy

Heart

Hero

Hope

Jaw-dropping

Jubilant

Magic

Mind-blowing
Miracle

Pluck

Sensational

Spectacular

Spine

Spirit

Staggering

Stunning

Surprising

Triumph

Uplifting

Valor

Victory

Wonderful

Wondrous

Take a Page from Cosmopolitan (or Playboy)

Like it or not, lust is one of the core human emotions.

Just look at the men’s and women’s magazines in the checkout aisle, and you’ll see what I mean. Nearly every headline on the cover is either blatantly or indirectly about sex.

And it works, not just for men’s and women’s magazines, but for anything. As a writer, you can use words that inspire lust to make almost anything intriguing.

For example: take a look at these two posts I wrote for Copyblogger:

Sex, Lies, and the Art of Commanding Attention

Copyblogger Editor Admits to Sleeping with Readers and Recommends You Do the Same

Both posts use the power of lust to teach people about headlines, of all things. Proof positive that it can be used for anything.

Here’s a lascivious list to get you started:

Brazen

Crave

Depraved

Dirty

Exposed

Forbidden

Hypnotic

Lascivious

Lick

Lonely
Lust

Naked

Naughty

Provocative

Scandalous

Sensual

Sex

Shameless

Sinful

Sleazy
Sleeping

Spank

Steamy

Sweaty

Tantalizing

Tawdry

Thrilling

Uncensored

Wanton

Whip

Start a Riot

As writers, sometimes our job is to anger people.

Not for the fun of it, mind you, but because someone is doing something wrong, and the community needs to take action to correct it. The problem is, with wrongdoing, most people are pretty apathetic – they’ll wait until the situation becomes entirely intolerable to do anything, and by then, it’s often too late.

So, we have to fan the flames. By using the below power words, you can connect with people’s anger, and slowly but surely, you can work them into a frenzy. Just be careful who you target. Lawyers can eat you alive if you pick on the wrong person. :-)

Abuse

Arrogant

Ass kicking

Backstabbing

Beat down

Bullshit

Bully

Coward

Crooked

Crush

Disgusting

Evil

Force-fed
Foul

Hate

Know it all

Lies

Loathsome

Loser

Lying

Maul

Money-grubbing

Nazi

No Good

Obnoxious

Payback
Pound

Preposterous

Punish

Revolting

Ruthless

Sick and Tired

Smug

Sniveling

Snob

Snooty

Snotty

Stuck up

Underhanded

Stomp on Their Greed Glands

The legendary copywriter Gary Halbert once said, “If you want people to buy something, stomp on their greed glands until they bleed.” Graphic, yes, but also true.

Skim through good sales copy, and you’ll find a lot of these power words. Many of them are so overused they’ve become cliché, but that doesn’t stop them from working.

The truth is, nearly every human being on the planet is interested in either making or saving money. Use these words to tap into those desires:

Bargain

Best

Billion

Bonanza

Cash

Cheap

Discount

Dollar

Double

Explode

Extra

Feast

Fortune

Free
Freebie

Frenzy

Frugal

Gift

Greatest

Inexpensive

Jackpot

Luxurious

Marked down

Massive

Money

Nest egg

Pay zero

Prize
Profit

Quadruple

Reduced

Rich

Savings

Six-figure

Skyrocket

Soaring

Surge

Treasure

Triple

Whopping

Make Them Feel Safe

Greed isn’t the only emotion you want buyers to feel. You also want to make them feel safe.

They need to trust both you and your product or service. They need to have confidence you’ll deliver. They need to believe they’ll get results.

Of course, building that kind of trust starts with having a quality brand and reputation, but the words you use to describe yourself and your product or service also matter. To help your customers feel safe, try to use as many of these power words as possible:

Anonymous

Authentic

Backed

Best-selling

Cancel Anytime

Certified

Endorsed

Guaranteed

Ironclad

Lifetime
Moneyback

No Obligation

No Questions Asked

No Risk

No Strings Attached

Official

Privacy

Protected

Proven

Recession-proof
Refund

Research

Results

Secure

Tested

Try before You Buy

Verify

Unconditional

Offer Them a Forbidden Fruit

Remember when you were a kid, and someone told you NOT to do something? From that point on, you could think about little else, right?

The truth is, we’re all fascinated by the mysterious and forbidden. It’s like it’s programmed into our very nature.

So why not tap into that programming?

Whenever you need to create curiosity, sprinkle these power words throughout your writing, and readers won’t be able to help being intrigued:

Backdoor

Banned

Behind the Scenes

Black Market

Blacklisted

Bootleg

Censored

Concealed

Confessions
Confidential

Controversial

Covert

Cover-up

Forbidden

Forgotten

Hidden

Illegal

Insider
Lost

Off-limits

Outlawed

Private

Secrets

Smuggled

Strange

Unauthorized

Withheld

Go Ahead and Tell Me. What Words Did I Miss?

Yes, this is an enormous list, but so many power words are available, nobody can possibly catch them all on the first pass. What are some other words that seem to have that extra little spark of emotion inside them?

Leave your answer in the comments, and as time goes by, I’ll come back periodically and update the list. Eventually, I hope to have over 1,000 words here, separated and organized by category, making this the definitive resource for power words on the web.

Thanks in advance for commenting and sharing the post with your friends!

About the Author: Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Boost Blog Traffic, LLC. Poor man. :-)

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