Home > Content, Marketing Strategy > Common words that suck emotional power out of your content

Common words that suck emotional power out of your content

blog writing with emotional words

You can’t bore someone into reading or sharing your content.

Every word has an emotion attached to it.

Every reader, regardless of profession or IQ, has an emotional reaction to your words. It is hardwired into the brain.

So when you are writing a blog post or other content for online marketing, your choice of words is important. Need convincing?

Legendary copywriter John Caples made a life study of persuasive writing. Once, he changed the word “repair” to “fix” in an ad and achieved a 20% increase in response. One word!

Related: A word reduction plan for lean writing

That illustrates an important rule of word choice for writers: When emotion meets intellect, emotion always wins. Analytical words activate the reader’s analytical brain instead of triggering an emotional response. Here is an example.

How would you respond to getting this email?


It is loaded with intellectual words like “selected,” “allocated,” “receive,” and “required.” I think anybody with a pulse would be left cold by this message.

What if we replaced the intellectual words with emotional words? We might get something like this:

We have great news for you. You’re already a winner.

Here’s how you claim your award …

It is essentially the same information. But the words are far more likely to trigger a response.

Weeding the content garden

Like weeds in a garden, intellectual words can creep into your copy, choking its emotional impact. It is so unnecessary. When you are on the lookout for them, it is easy to shift word choice in favor of emotion. Here is a reference guide to get you started, courtesy of my copywriting hero Herschell Gordon Lewis.

content marketing emotion words

Boring or persuasive? You choose

Every good piece of copy has an emotional outpouring of words. But there is a big difference between writing with emotion and dumbing down your message. It comes down to understanding people.

People make judgments about you, your ideas, or your brand based on emotion. Then they justify their response with logic. It happens in that order.

Your challenge as a blogger is to choose words that arouse their senses and lead them to their logical conclusion. Intellectual words don’t do that. They make you sound smarter. They also make you sound boring.

What would you add to the intellectual/emotional word list?


  1. Brady
    August 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    My immediate impression from this list is that the “emotion” words are mostly just the more commonly used words. I’m not sure if I buy the whole “emotion” “intellectual” argument to explain their effectiveness. Only that your mind can process more quickly and easily the words it sees and hears more often.

  2. September 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Love the word list! Unless you are trained as a marketer or copywriter, it is easy to forget how powerful a simple switch of a word can be. Thanks for this great resource!

  3. Steven Lindbergh
    January 24, 2014 at 2:43 am

    What you are really saying is that it is more effective to dumb down writing to fit society’s increasingly anti-intellectual and fellaheen preferences.

  4. Steven Lindbergh
    January 24, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Fellaheen is a wrong word choice.
    What you are really saying is that it is more effective to dumb down writing to fit society’s increasingly anti-intellectual and anti-education preferences.

    • CJ
      March 14, 2017 at 1:44 am


  5. January 24, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Missing the Muse and commented:
    There is a time and place for writing intellectually. When it comes to tugging at the heartstrings of your audience, you may want to use words that appeal to their emotions instead of their mind. Here is a good list of intellectual words along with their emotional counterparts.

  6. January 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    The situation has evolved. These days everybody can see when they are receiving a ‘praiseburger’ or a shit sandwich, for example – it’s kind of received and you think ‘eyup, this moron has been on a course.’ Ultimately, sincerity and character shall survive. Good luck with your blog, all the best.

  7. LadyRaconteur88
    January 24, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Reblogged this on Polymnia Blues.

  8. January 25, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Reblogged this on Gr8fullsoul.

  9. March 5, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Reblogged this on seshirley and commented:
    Super suggestions that are easy and powerful!

  10. March 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I will immediately take hold of your rss as I can’t find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly allow me recognize in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.
    PENNY http://www.net-ict.be/

    • March 9, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      Hi Penny,

      Thanks for your interest in following by blog. I have moved my blogging activities to a new location at http://www.jgodigital.com. That is where all my new posts are now published. You can subscribe via RSS and email there. I won’t be publishing new content here. Hope to see you there!


  11. January 12, 2017 at 7:17 pm
  12. Rubie Gonzales
    February 6, 2017 at 11:19 am

    I just want to say this is an excellent idea. I have found by teaching our youth intellectual words increases their vocabulary. Especially those who are living in low socio-economic environments. As a teacher it is important that they are accustomed to the vocabulary. Where I teach we try to use other words that are not common but will bring their writing up to the level of middle class which hopefully they will enter once they receive an excellent education.

  13. johnstone ochieng
    February 14, 2017 at 4:50 am

    this is an intelligent idea. hopefully i maybe pleased to join it disclosion and elaboration in order to boost this my futile mind in vocabulary.

  14. rosaregalis
    July 1, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    anyone noticed how most words identified as ‘intellectual’ simply comes from the latin and have been borrowed from other languages (probably starting around the middle ages), while the words called ’emotional’ have anglo-saxon roots ? it strikes me as a linguist and a French person ! ..

  1. September 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm
  2. September 17, 2013 at 8:02 am
  3. March 14, 2016 at 11:41 am
  4. January 9, 2017 at 7:22 am
  5. January 9, 2017 at 7:28 am
  6. January 12, 2017 at 7:11 pm
  7. January 12, 2017 at 7:21 pm
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