Words are sacred … If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.
– Tom Stoppard, Famed Author, Playwright, and Screenwriter
You want to nudge the world, right? You’re in marketing to do just that.
In fact, you probably want to do more than just nudge the world.
You want to tantalize.
You want to motivate.
You want to accelerate.
But for now you probably would just be thrilled if an extra person opens your email or clicks a call to action button.
Action words can help you do just that.
How You Write Matters
You need impact. These days your writing needs stopping power.
We are assaulted almost every second we’re on our phone or in front of a computer – emails, text messages, search results, ads, Facebook posts, Tweets, blog posts, and more.
Then throw in all the other content we are constantly exposed to – 24/7 TV news, syndicated radio shows, billboards, newspapers, magazines, junk mail, and more ads.
It’s understandable that people have learned to shut out the noise. In fact, we’ve really learned to filter out obvious marketing messages.
Action words can help punch through the noise filters.
But you’re not done yet.
Your writing needs to bring out an emotion that triggers action.
Feelings happen fast. Unconsciously. Powerfully.
We just act.
Action words trigger our emotions.
One word or phrase can excite your readers. Or make them curious, scared, furious, and even aroused.
Then they act.
They read on. They click. They buy.
The right action word instantly punches up any marketing copy.
Headlines, subject lines, article titles, taglines, product names, call to action statements, proof points, mission statements, blog posts, resumes.
Any writing you do.
Four Quick Tips on Using Action Words
So you know why you need to use action words in your writing.
But how you do it is also critical to your success.
The English language has a bazillion words.
Should you just open up your thesaurus and find the fanciest word?
That’s why I created this list. It gives you a shortcut to words that really work.
But before we dive into the list, here are some quick tips:
Tip #1: Nail the Verb First
The list contains mostly verbs. And there’s a reason.
Verbs are the most critical part in marketing writing. They are the action-driver.
Find the right verb first.
There are thousands of fantastic adjectives and adverbs too. But that can be a trap.
You have to use adjectives and adverbs correctly. They are accents. Accents that can help tremendously.
Unfortunately, I see too many writers rely on them too much.
Used incorrectly, adjectives and adverbs can make the writer look like they are trying to prove they’re smart… which has nothing to do with the audience. We’re marketers, not novelists.
If the phrase is not affecting the reader, what’s it doing there? Make it do its job or cut it without mercy or remorse.
– Isaac Asimov
Tip #2: Keep It Simple
“Go” is my favorite verb.
Pure action. Two letters. Nothing fancy.
Keep your action words simple.
Mark Twain said it best.
We can all click in Microsoft Word to open up the thesaurus. It can be helpful when we’re stuck.
But don’t abuse the thesaurus by using it to find the most elegant word.
Simple words work best for your readers. That’s how you make an impact and drive action.
I once used the word OBSOLETE in a headline, only to discover that 43 per cent of housewives had no idea what it meant. In another headline, I used the word INEFFABLE, only to discover that I didn’t know what it meant myself.
– David Ogilvy
Tip #3: Consonants Pick Up the Pace
Readers are drawn toward words with strong consonants.
A word that starts hard or ends hard is like a staccato note to our brains.
Consonants boost the cadence of your writing.
That cadence and hard sound of consonants helps you cut through your reader’s noise filter.
I’m not dismissing our friend the vowel though. Words that start with vowels or that end softly can still deliver.
But why chance being a little mushy when a good consonant word will do?
Tip #4: Alliteration is a Perfect Power-Packed Technique
Alliteration is the writing tactic that pairs up words with the same beginning sound.
Why is that important for action words?
Alliteration makes your writing even more interesting and easier to remember.
The result is you attract more customers and convert more sales.
That’s why you have big brands use alliteration in their names, like Bed Bath & Beyond, Krispy Kreme, and PayPal.
So use alliteration to boost your best action words.
277 Action Words
YOUR ACTION: Download this list. Print it out and keep it on your desk.
Don’t see your favorite action words on the list. Please share. Leave a comment below.
High Energy Words
This set of action words is full of positive verbs. Verbs that give your reader energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration.
Speed words are action on hyperdrive.
Your readers want things now. They have the need for speed.
Your audience doesn’t want to lose anything they value.
They worry. They’re fearful.
Loss aversion is a powerful motivator. Unconsciously it’s probably more influential than something positive or rewarding.
Fear most often relates someone doing something bad to you. Someone is on the receiving end.
Anger is acting out… with extra aggression.
This set of angry action words brings out a strong emotion.
Our curiosity compels us to act. Why?
We’re intrigued by what we don’t know. Even more fascinating, we want what we can’t have.
We can’t help by find out what we’re missing.
I had to steal from the title of a classic late ‘90s hip hop song by The Lox (featuring Lil’ Kim and DMX) for this section.
Money and power attract attention. Call it greed if you want.
But this set of action words delivers results.
Fear is not the only deep-seated emotion that triggers our core emotions.
Sex and attraction are also powerful drivers in our unconscious mind.
You can imply sex without being explicit.
Of course, be careful with this. Everything is not a beer commercial.
A little reassurance can go a long way with your readers. People like to know they are safe.
Safe words don’t have the visceral stopping power of fear or sex words.
But when used at the right place and at the right time, these words make us confident to act.
Is your favorite action word missing from this list?
Please share. Leave a comment below.