Strong Verbs List For Essays About Life

Ever noticed how some writers have an uncanny ability to toy with your emotions?

Within the span of a few pages, you can go from shaking with excitement to bawling your eyes out to flying into a rage and throwing the book across the room. It’s the hallmark of great writing, proof of mastery of the craft, and the yardstick by which aspiring writers measure their work.

And it goes beyond storytelling.

Sure, taking the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride is essential in novels and short stories, but what about emails, resumes, blog posts, proposals? They’re all designed to influence the reader in some way. You want to pass along information, yes, but you also want the reader to feel a certain way about that information.

Maybe you want to impress them, get them excited, make them cautious, get them angry, encourage them to keep going, or any number of emotions. The better a job you do at making them feel, the more influential you are, and the better your chances of getting what you want.

So, you might wonder… how?

The world is full of people who can scribble down their ideas, but to bring those ideas to life, to make them take up residence in the mind of the reader, lurking in the background, tugging, pulling, and cajoling their emotions until they think and feel exactly as you want? That’s a rare skill indeed.

The good news is it can be yours. There’s even a shortcut.

How to Instantly Become a Better Writer

It’s simple:

Use power words.

Rather than describe what I mean, let’s deconstruct an example from the great Winston Churchill:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Inspiring, right?

Well, there was a lot on the line. Under attack from Germany, Britain was fighting for its survival, and somehow, someway, Churchill had to find a way to inspire his countrymen to greatness.

He chose words. Or, to be more accurate, power words.

Let’s take a look at the passage again, this time with all the power words underlined:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstroustyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Each underlined word makes the audience feel something. In this case, Churchill intermixes words that cause fear, such as “struggle,” “tyranny,” and “terror,” with words that cause hope, such as “strength,” “God,” and “victory.” The last, in particular, is repeated over and over, practically drilling the emotion into the minds of the audience.

It’s no accident. Smart speakers, as well as their speechwriters, sprinkle their speeches with carefully-chosen power words, drawing the audience from one emotion to another as skillfully as any novelist or screenwriter.

Granted, that’s not all they do. The best writers use an entire tool chest of techniques to create emotion, and power words are only one such tool.

But there’s good news.

For beginning writers, power words are one of the easiest tools to master. Unlike many storytelling strategies which can take years of practice to master, you can start sprinkling power words into your writing, and you’ll notice an immediate lift in the quality of your prose.

All you lack is a list of power words to use, but of course, I have you covered there too. 🙂

317 Power Words to Start Using Immediately

For years now, every time I mentioned power words to my students, someone always asked:

“Where can I get a list? Is there a book I can buy?”

Sadly, not that I’m aware of.  That’s why I created this list.

Slowly, over a period of several weeks, I catalogued all the power words that jumped out to me, organizing them into categories based on the emotion you want to create, so you can easily find the right word. In the future, I’ll also update the list, adding new words on a regular basis to make it the most comprehensive list of power words available anywhere.

It costs nothing. All I ask in return is you share it with your friends and readers when appropriate, helping it reach the people who need it most.

Enjoy.

Want a handy PDF containing all 317 Power Words (plus 50 exclusive bonus words) to download and keep? Get it Here.

Calling All Fearmongers

Let’s do a little experiment.

Just for a moment, stop reading this post, turn on the television, and go to a major news channel. Watch it for five minutes, listening for the words below.

Chances are, you’ll hear dozens of them. Here’s why:

Fear is without a doubt the most powerful emotion for grabbing and keeping an audience’s attention. To make sure you don’t change the channel, news networks load up with fear words, making you worry you might miss something important.

It’s effective. Granted, you can overdo it, but in my opinion, most writers don’t use these types of words nearly enough. They really do connect with people.

Here’s a bunch to get you started:

Agony
Apocalypse
Armageddon
Assault
Backlash
Beating
Beware
Blinded
Blood
Bloodbath
Bloodcurdling
Bloody
Bomb
Buffoon
Bumbling
Cadaver
Catastrophe
Caution
Collapse
Corpse
Crazy
Cripple
Crisis
Danger
Deadly
Death
Destroy
Devastating
Disastrous
Drowning
Dumb
Embarrass
Fail
Feeble
Fired
Fool

Fooled
Frantic
Frightening
Gambling
Gullible
Hack
Hazardous
Hoax
Holocaust
Horrific
Hurricane
Insidious
Invasion
IRS
Jail
Jeopardy
Lawsuit
Looming
Lunatic
Lurking
Meltdown
Mired
Mistake
Murder
Nightmare
Painful
Pale
Panic
Peril
Piranha
Pitfall
Plague
Played
Plummet
Plunge
Poison

Pummel
Poor
Prison
Pus
Reckoning
Refugee
Revenge
Risky
Scary
Scream
Searing
Shatter
Shellacking
Silly
Slaughter
Slave
Smash
Strangle
Stupid
Suck
Tailspin
Tank
Targeted
Teetering
Terror
Terrorist
Toxic
Trap
Vaporize
Victim
Volatile
Vulnerable
Warning
Worry
Wounded

Give Your Readers a Pep Talk

Let’s face it.

When they’re reading, most people aren’t exactly bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm. They’re probably bored, maybe a little depressed, and almost definitely tired. And they’re looking for something, anything, that’ll wake them up and make them feel better.

The good news?

Your writing can do that for them. Use these power words to give them a pep talk and get them charged up again:

Amazing
Audacity
Backbone
Belief
Blissful
Bravery
Breathtaking
Cheer
Conquer
Courage
Daring
Defiance
Delight
Devoted
Excited

Eye-opening
Faith
Fearless
Fulfill
Grateful
Grit
Guts
Happy
Heart
Hero
Hope
Jaw-dropping
Jubilant
Magic
Mind-blowing

Miracle
Pluck
Sensational
Spectacular
Spine
Spirit
Staggering
Stunning
Surprising
Triumph
Uplifting
Valor
Victory
Wonderful
Wondrous

Take a Page from Cosmopolitan (or Playboy)

Like it or not, lust is one of the core human emotions.

Just look at the men’s and women’s magazines in the checkout aisle, and you’ll see what I mean. Nearly every headline on the cover is either blatantly or indirectly about sex.

And it works, not just for men’s and women’s magazines, but for anything. As a writer, you can use words that inspire lust to make almost anything intriguing.

For example: take a look at these two posts I wrote for Copyblogger:

Sex, Lies, and the Art of Commanding Attention

Copyblogger Editor Admits to Sleeping with Readers and Recommends You Do the Same

Both posts use the power of lust to teach people about headlines, of all things. Proof positive that it can be used for anything.

Here’s a lascivious list to get you started:

Brazen
Crave
Depraved
Dirty
Exposed
Forbidden
Hypnotic
Lascivious
Lick
Lonely

Lust
Naked
Naughty
Provocative
Scandalous
Sensual
Sex
Shameless
Sinful
Sleazy

Sleeping
Spank
Steamy
Sweaty
Tantalizing
Tawdry
Thrilling
Uncensored
Wanton
Whip

Start a Riot

As writers, sometimes our job is to anger people.

Not for the fun of it, mind you, but because someone is doing something wrong, and the community needs to take action to correct it. The problem is, with wrongdoing, most people are pretty apathetic – they’ll wait until the situation becomes entirely intolerable to do anything, and by then, it’s often too late.

So, we have to fan the flames. By using the below power words, you can connect with people’s anger, and slowly but surely, you can work them into a frenzy. Just be careful who you target. Lawyers can eat you alive if you pick on the wrong person. 🙂

Abuse
Arrogant
Ass kicking
Backstabbing
Beat down
Bullshit
Bully
Coward
Crooked
Crush
Disgusting
Evil
Force-fed

Foul
Hate
Know it all
Lies
Loathsome
Loser
Lying
Maul
Money-grubbing
Nazi
No Good
Obnoxious
Payback

Pound
Preposterous
Punish
Revolting
Ruthless
Sick and Tired
Smug
Sniveling
Snob
Snooty
Snotty
Stuck up
Underhanded

Stomp on Their Greed Glands

The legendary copywriter Gary Halbert once said, “If you want people to buy something, stomp on their greed glands until they bleed.” Graphic, yes, but also true.

Skim through good sales copy, and you’ll find a lot of these power words. Many of them are so overused they’ve become cliché, but that doesn’t stop them from working.

The truth is, nearly every human being on the planet is interested in either making or saving money. Use these words to tap into those desires:

Bargain
Best
Billion
Bonanza
Cash
Cheap
Discount
Dollar
Double
Explode
Extra
Feast
Fortune
Free

Freebie
Frenzy
Frugal
Gift
Greatest
Inexpensive
Jackpot
Luxurious
Marked down
Massive
Money
Nest egg
Pay zero
Prize

Profit
Quadruple
Reduced
Rich
Savings
Six-figure
Skyrocket
Soaring
Surge
Treasure
Triple
Whopping

Make Them Feel Safe

Greed isn’t the only emotion you want buyers to feel. You also want to make them feel safe.

They need to trust both you and your product or service. They need to have confidence you’ll deliver. They need to believe they’ll get results.

Of course, building that kind of trust starts with having a quality brand and reputation, but the words you use to describe yourself and your product or service also matter. To help your customers feel safe, try to use as many of these power words as possible:

Anonymous
Authentic
Backed
Best-selling
Cancel Anytime
Certified
Endorsed
Guaranteed
Ironclad
Lifetime

Moneyback
No Obligation
No Questions Asked
No Risk
No Strings Attached
Official
Privacy
Protected
Proven
Recession-proof

Refund
Research
Results
Secure
Tested
Try before You Buy
Verify
Unconditional

Offer Them a Forbidden Fruit

Remember when you were a kid, and someone told you NOT to do something? From that point on, you could think about little else, right?

The truth is, we’re all fascinated by the mysterious and forbidden. It’s like it’s programmed into our very nature.

So why not tap into that programming?

Whenever you need to create curiosity, sprinkle these power words throughout your writing, and readers won’t be able to help being intrigued:

Backdoor
Banned
Behind the Scenes
Black Market
Blacklisted
Bootleg
Censored
Concealed
Confessions

Confidential
Controversial
Covert
Cover-up
Forbidden
Forgotten
Hidden
Illegal
Insider

Lost
Off-limits
Outlawed
Private
Secrets
Smuggled
Strange
Unauthorized
Withheld

Want a handy PDF containing all 317 Power Words (plus 50 exclusive bonus words) to download and keep? Get it Here.

Go Ahead and Tell Me. What Words Did I Miss?

Yes, this is an enormous list, but so many power words are available, nobody can possibly catch them all on the first pass. What are some other words that seem to have that extra little spark of emotion inside them?

Leave your answer in the comments, and as time goes by, I’ll come back periodically and update the list. Eventually, I hope to have over 1,000 words here, separated and organized by category, making this the definitive resource for power words on the web.

Thanks in advance for commenting and sharing the post with your friends!

About the Author: Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Smart Blogger. Poor man. 🙂

What is tone?

Tone refers to an author’s use of words and writing style to convey his or her attitude towards a topic. Tone is often defined as what the author feels about the subject. What the reader feels is known as the mood.

Tip: Don’t confuse tone with voice. [Read How Do You Find Your Writing Voice?] Voice can be explained as the author’s personality expressed in writing. Tone = Attitude. Voice = Personality.

Tone (attitude) and voice (personality) create a writing style. You may not be able to alter your personality but you can adjust your attitude. This gives you ways to create writing that affects your audience’s mood. (Click here for examples of tone in a story.)

The mechanics of tone

Tone is conveyed through diction (choice and use of words and phrases), viewpoint, syntax (grammar; how you put words and phrases together), and level of formality. It is the way you express yourself in speech or writing.

How do you find the correct tone?

You can usually find a tone by asking these three questions:

  1. Why am I writing this?
  2. Who is my intended audience?
  3. What do I want the reader to learn, understand, or think about?

In formal writing, your tone should be clear, concise, confident, and courteous. The writing level should be sophisticated, but not pretentious.

In creative writing, your tone is more subjective, but you should always aim to communicate clearly. Genre sometimes determines the tone.

  Tone

     Meaning

Absurdillogical; ridiculous; silly; implausible; foolish
Accusatorysuggesting someone has done something wrong, complaining
Acerbicsharp; forthright; biting; hurtful; abrasive; severe
Admiringapproving; think highly of; respectful; praising
Aggressivehostile; determined; forceful; argumentative
Aggrievedindignant; annoyed; offended; disgruntled
Ambivalenthaving mixed feelings; uncertain; in a dilemma; undecided
Amusedentertained; diverted; pleased
Angryincensed or enraged; threatening or menacing
Animatedfull of life or excitement; lively; spirited; impassioned; vibrant
Apatheticshowing little interest; lacking concern; indifferent; unemotional
Apologeticfull of regret; repentant; remorseful; acknowledging failure
Appreciativegrateful; thankful; showing pleasure; enthusiastic
Ardententhusiastic; passionate
Arrogantpompous; disdainful; overbearing; condescending; vain; scoffing
Assertiveself-confident; strong-willed; authoritative; insistent
Awestruckamazed, filled with wonder/awe; reverential
Belligerenthostile; aggressive; combatant
Benevolentsympathetic; tolerant; generous; caring; well meaning
Bitterangry; acrimonious; antagonistic; spiteful; nasty
Callouscruel disregard; unfeeling; uncaring; indifferent; ruthless
Candidtruthful, straightforward; honest; unreserved
Causticmaking biting, corrosive comments; critical
Cautionarygives warning; raises awareness; reminding
Celebratorypraising; pay tribute to; glorify; honour
Chattyinformal; lively; conversational; familiar
Colloquialfamiliar; everyday language; informal; colloquial; casual
Comichumorous; witty; entertaining; diverting
Compassionatesympathetic; empathetic; warm-hearted; tolerant; kind
Complexhaving many varying characteristics; complicated
Compliantagree or obey rules; acquiescent; flexible; submissive
Concernedworried; anxious; apprehensive
Conciliatoryintended to placate or pacify; appeasing
Condescendingstooping to the level of one’s inferiors; patronising
Confusedunable to think clearly; bewildered; vague
Contemptuousshowing contempt; scornful; insolent; mocking
Criticalfinding fault; disapproving; scathing; criticizing
Cruelcausing pain and suffering; unkind; spiteful; severe
Curiouswanting to find out more; inquisitive; questioning
Cynicalscornful of motives/virtues of others; mocking; sneering
Defensivedefending a position; shielding; guarding; watchful
Defiantobstinate; argumentative; defiant; contentious
Demeaningdisrespectful; undignified
Depressingsad, melancholic; discouraging; pessimistic
Derisivesnide; sarcastic; mocking; dismissive; scornful
Detachedaloof; objective; unfeeling; distant
Dignifiedserious; respectful; formal; proper
Diplomatictactful; subtle; sensitive; thoughtful
Disapprovingdispleased; critical; condemnatory
Dishearteningdiscouraging; demoralising; undermining; depressing
Disparagingdismissive; critical; scornful
Directstraightforward; honest
Disappointeddiscouraged; unhappy because something has gone wrong
Dispassionateimpartial; indifferent; unsentimental; cold; unsympathetic
Distressingheart-breaking; sad; troubling
Docilecompliant; submissive; deferential; accommodating
Earnestshowing deep sincerity or feeling; serious
Egotisticalself-absorbed; selfish; conceited; boastful
Empatheticunderstanding; kind; sensitive
Encouragingoptimistic; supportive
Enthusiasticexcited; energetic
Evasiveambiguous; cryptic; unclear
Excitedemotionally aroused; stirred
Facetiousinappropriate; flippant
Farcicalludicrous; absurd; mocking; humorous and highly improbable
Flippantsuperficial; glib; shallow; thoughtless; frivolous
Forcefulpowerful; energetic; confident; assertive
Formalrespectful; stilted; factual; following accepted styles/rules
Frankhonest; direct; plain; matter-of-fact
Frustratedannoyed; discouraged
Gentlekind; considerate; mild; soft
Ghoulishdelighting in the revolting or the loathsome
Grimserious; gloomy; depressing; lacking humour;macabre
Gulliblenaïve; innocent; ignorant
Hardunfeeling; hard-hearted; unyielding
Humbledeferential; modest
Humorousamusing; entertaining; playful
Hypercriticalunreasonably critical; hair splitting; nitpicking
Impartialunbiased; neutral; objective
Impassionedfilled with emotion; ardent
Imploringpleading; begging
Impressionabletrusting; child-like
Inanesilly; foolish; stupid; nonsensical
Incensedenraged
Incredulousdisbelieving; unconvinced; questioning; suspicious
Indignantannoyed; angry; dissatisfied
Informativeinstructive; factual; educational
Inspirationalencouraging; reassuring
Intenseearnest; passionate; concentrated; deeply felt
Intimatefamiliar; informal; confidential; confessional
Ironicthe opposite of what is meant
Irreverentlacking respect for things that are generally taken seriously
Jadedbored; having had too much of the same thing; lack enthusiasm
Joyfulpositive; optimistic; cheerful; elated
Judgmentalcritical; finding fault; disparaging
Laudatorypraising; recommending
Light-Heartedcarefree; relaxed; chatty; humorous
Lovingaffectionate; showing intense, deep concern
Macabregruesome; horrifying; frightening
Maliciousdesiring to harm others or to see others suffer; ill-willed; spiteful
Mean-Spiritedinconsiderate; unsympathetic
Mockingscornful; ridiculing; making fun of someone
Mourninggrieving; lamenting; woeful
Naïveinnocent; unsophisticated; immature
Narcissisticself-admiring; selfish; boastful; self-pitying
Nastyunpleasant; unkind; disagreeable; abusive
Negativeunhappy, pessimistic
Nostalgicthinking about the past; wishing for something from the past
Objectivewithout prejudice; without discrimination; fair; based on fact
Obsequiousoverly obedient and/or submissive; fawning; grovelling
Optimistichopeful; cheerful
Outragedangered and resentful; furious; extremely angered
Outspokenfrank; candid; spoken without reserve
Patheticexpressing pity, sympathy, tenderness
Patronisingcondescending; scornful; pompous
Pensivereflective; introspective; philosophical; contemplative
Persuasiveconvincing; eloquent; influential; plausible
Pessimisticseeing the negative side of things
Philosophicaltheoretical; analytical; rational; logical
Playfulfull of fun and good spirits; humorous; jesting
Pragmaticrealistic; sensible
Pretentiousaffected; artificial; grandiose; rhetorical; flashy
Regretfulapologetic; remorseful
Resentfulaggrieved; offended; displeased; bitter
Resignedaccepting; unhappy
Restrainedcontrolled; quiet; unemotional
Reverentshowing deep respect and esteem
Righteousmorally right and just; guiltless; pious; god-fearing
Satiricalmaking fun to show a weakness; ridiculing; derisive
Sarcasticscornful; mocking; ridiculing
Scathingcritical; stinging; unsparing; harsh
Scornfulexpressing contempt or derision; scathing; dismissive
Sensationalisticprovocative; inaccurate; distasteful
Sentimentalthinking about feelings, especially when remembering the past
Sincerehonest; truthful; earnest
Scepticaldisbelieving; unconvinced; doubting
Solemnnot funny; in earnest; serious
Subjectiveprejudiced; biased
Submissivecompliant; passive; accommodating; obedient
Sulkingbad-tempered; grumpy; resentful; sullen
Sympatheticcompassionate; understanding of how someone feels
Thoughtfulreflective; serious; absorbed
Tolerantopen-minded; charitable; patient; sympathetic; lenient
Tragicdisastrous; calamitous
Unassumingmodest; self-effacing; restrained
Uneasyworried; uncomfortable; edgy; nervous
Urgentinsistent; saying something must be done soon
Vindictivevengeful; spiteful; bitter; unforgiving
Virtuouslawful; righteous; moral; upstanding
Whimsicalquaint; playful; mischievous; offbeat
Wittyclever; quick-witted; entertaining
Wonderawe-struck; admiring; fascinating
World-Wearybored; cynical; tired
Worriedanxious; stressed; fearful
Wretchedmiserable; despairing; sorrowful; distressed

 

Helpful Tip:Finding the correct tone is a matter of practice. Try to write for different audiences. Even if you only want to write novels, it is an apprenticeship of sorts. Write press releases. Write opinion pieces. Write interviews. Write copy. Write a business plan.

The more you write, the better you will become at infusing your work with the nuances needed to create the perfect book. If you want to receive a daily prompt, click here to join our mailing list.

by Amanda Patterson

  1. 15 Questions Authors Should Ask Characters
  2. 6 Sub-Plots That Add Style To Your Story
  3. 7 Choices That Affect A Writer’s Style
  4. 5 Incredibly Simple Ways To Help Writers Show And Not Tell
  5. Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

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  • Posted on 27th June 2014
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Explore: Style, Tone, Voice, Writing Tips from Amanda Patterson

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