One of the steps in auditing stories for improvement opportunities is the review for lazy, passive or wimpy words. Common words slip so effortlessly into our writing. We use the first word that comes to mind rather than invest the time to think of a more appropriate or emotionally impactful word. We become unmindful of phrases that have become hackneyed. Unmindful? What an insult to any one’s writing! All of our writing should be completely mindful, conscious, and intentional. Our stories must be written to communicate our message on an emotional level. That can never be mindless writing.
The Trusty Thesaurus
One way to improve the emotional engagement of your writing is to use a thesaurus. You may even have an old copy left over from school. Dig it out and start finding words to replace the tired ones you use unconsciously. There are online thesaurus options, but a current copy of the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus is really the best resource.
Custom Word Lists Are More Valuable
Want a proven, free, and deep practice-focused method to upgrade your writing skills? Develop your own word lists. This idea is well demonstrated in a blog post by John Morrow on his blog: Boost Blog Traffic. You can read his Power Word blog post here.
Morrow presents several word lists for creating emotional impact. As marketing story writers we can take this idea one step further: create lists of words specifically for our Unstoppable Branding. In addition to lists of emotional words, we need words that express our archetype, appeal to our ideal customers, match our customers’ worldviews, and align with our values.
Review the categories Morrow suggests: fear, pep talks, sex, anger, greed, safety, and forbidden. These may be great for some businesses, and they are a great starting point for blog posts that snag readers, but not all these categories may be right for your business. Use what fits; discard the rest.
Then add your own categories—ones that are right for your audience. Get out that thesaurus and start seeding each list with some starter words. Look at your competitors, others in your industry, or read books that would appeal to your target customers. Are they using juicy words and tasty phrases that could raise the bar for (or boost, hike up, augment, enhance, top up, beef up, soup up, or even rev up) your own writing? If so, add those words to your lists!
But Make the Words Your Own
When reviewing your word lists and your writing, ask yourself if this writing sounds like you. In other words, if someone read your story and then met you in person, would you sound the same? Or would people question who wrote your story? Many (perhaps most) of us write in a slightly different style than we use for general conversation. There is likely to be a bit of a language shift between the two. Just don’t get to far afield using words you found in the thesaurus that you would never use in person.
As always, staying true to your authentic self is the only way to go.