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3 Types of Magic Words…

Do magic words exist or are they a copywriting myth?

I recently received a copywriting advice email  from Yale University describing the ‘the most powerful words in the English Language’. Here they are:

  • 1. You
  • 2. Results
  • 3. Health
  • 4. Guarantee
  • 5. Discover
  • 6. Love
  • 7. Proven
  • 8. Safety
  • 9. Save
  • 10. New

Although I agree that these are powerful words, I doubt Yale really conducted any rigorous research – and if they did, it’s certainly not something that the University chooses to share on its official website.

What is interesting is how long these types of list have been "doing the rounds". It taps into the insatiable demand for instant solutions. Human nature finds the notion very appealing that all you need do is sprinkle a few magic words into your writing like fairy dust and, Hey Presto, an instant increase in sales pops out of the hat.

Using magic words in the right place in your copy and in the right order is as important as the choice of words. Then they all work together and support other words to help each other which is important.

So do ‘magic words’ exist? I believe they do, but the skill is in how they’re used. For example – here’s a headline made up of seven out of the ten words on the list. Yet it certainly isn’t seven times more powerful...even seems "spammy"

LOVE DISCOVERING NEW HEALTH RESULTS – AND SAVE. GUARANTEED!

The key to using these words, in my opinion, is to use them appropriately to reinforce other parts of the copy. They fall in to three categories

  • 1. Attract attention

There are words like NEW, EASY, YOU, SAVE, DISCOVER and FAST which are good to use in headlines and opening paragraphs of copy. They offer universal benefits which people are always drawn to – even if they would prefer to think that they’re not!

  • 2. Create trust

These include words like SAFE, HAPPY, RESULTS, PROVEN and GUARANTEED. These are excellent words to sprinkle in to the middle to lower half of a piece of copy. Once you’ve got your customer reading, reassuring words like this help to prevent doubts creeping into their mind and stop their interest going cold.

  • 3. Urge action

These are words such as NOW, QUICK and HURRY. Use these at the end of copy to urge your reader to act immediately.

  • 4. Get the recipe right

Here's one final piece of advice. Even when you place your magic words with, you still need to be cautious with the quantity. Don’t throw throw them everywhere like magic dust from the fairy godmother. Instead, treat them like the hot chillies sprinked by Cinderella into the soup.
Even the most powerful magic words can’t transform poor copy, they just add extra flavour to good copy - but you need to use them sparingly or you’ll spoil the whole dish.

What do you think? Do you have your personal "magic" words to share?

Mel Henson

By Mel Henson

Mel Henson is an author, consultant and copywriter specialising in strategy and copy for retail websites and catalogues. She is also head of multi-channel copywriting agency Words That Sell.

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