Advanced Business Writing
Influence and Persuasion

Magic Words

Your words can stimulate more than just the mind of your reader. For example:

Right now, you are not holding a peeled orange in your hand. You do not feel its cool softness. You do not smell its sweet fragrance. And you are not happily biting into it. But now imagine you are, as you decide it's okay to download that new app I recommended.

The words in that prior paragraph were assembled to:

1. stimulate your imagination

2. activate your senses

3. create associations

The final sentence was blatantly odd, placing two unrelated things next to each other (biting into an orange, downloading an app) to create an association in your mind. I was hoping to use your love of oranges to bolster my suggestion about the app. They have nothing to do with each other. But if you like oranges, the notion of downloading an app currently feels more pleasing than it normally does. (Unless you hate oranges, in which case I'm toast.)

The words you choose can affect the mood of your reader. Their mind gets busy, remembering things and conjuring associations with other things. If your words appeal to the senses and emotions, your reader will consider what you have to say with more attention, consideration, and even approval.

Here are several words that magically invite the reader to pay attention:

 • we

 • you

The word you and its power to engage are discussed in other lessons in this course.

Here are several words that magically invite the reader to consider something:

 • remember

 • imagine

These are words that people react strongly to. They can't help themselves. When you say or write remember, they automatically start remembering. It's your job to steer them in the right direction after that, i.e., toward a memory useful to your purpose.

Here are some phrases that magically invite the reader to justify approving your suggestion:

 • The more we X, the more we Y.

 • I suggest X, because Y.

Psychologists know that when we ask someone to do us a favor, we will be more successful if we provide a reason: "I need X, because Y." The word because is a natural inducement for compliance. Why? Because we are conditioned to be critical and questioning until we are shown reasons for something. And when we see the word because, our mind is tricked, at least a little bit, into believing that a good-enough reason is being given. Even if the reason isn't sufficient, it's still a reason being presented. And that makes all the difference. Compliance is often the result. Strange, huh?

Consider two versions of a recommendation to a marketing manager:

It was an expensive fiasco, distributing the hardcopy manuals for the coffee maker. Installation instructions could be put in online videos. The result could very well be reductions in cost, chaos, and customer complaints. I bet that would improve morale around here.

As you may remember, distributing the hardcopy manuals for our coffee maker was an expensive fiasco. We should place our installation instructions in online videos, because it will lead to less chaos and fewer customer complaints. Imagine how much that would improve morale around here!

Which was more interesting to read?

Please note: You have just been manipulated, a little bit. These magic words are more commonly known as trigger words because they are known to trigger certain behaviors. But magic words does a better job of grabbing your attention. It is hoped that this bit of subterfuge improved the learning experience. And as you can imagine, it works because it's provocative. There I go again, sorry.

Lesson: Magic Words
Module: Influence and Persuasion
Course: Advanced Business Writing