Copy isn’t all spelling and grammar. The words we use, and how we use them, can work to unlock a reader’s subconscious in subtle ways and heighten the persuasiveness of our copy.
So, let’s have a look at how the field of psychology can help copywriters boost the power of our words.
Tell a story
Humans love a good story. In fact, we’re way more likely to remember information if it’s told to us in a narrative form. But how does that work for, say, a page about waste management? Not exactly Netflix-worthy material, is it?
Well, it’s actually possible to weave a subtle narrative thread through almost any text. All you need to do is start with a problem at the beginning, take your main character (the customer) on a journey with help from the hero (your client), to reach a satisfying conclusion (how your service can help solve the problem).
And while this isn’t a story in the traditional sense, knitting a rough narrative flow into your writing can help you steer clear of waffling and make your writing that bit tighter.
Positive and negative framing
“Don’t suffer from glare - rid yourself of this problem with blinds”. This sentence is a bit doomy, with negative words such as ‘suffer’, ‘rid’ and ‘problem’ creating a downbeat mood in our mind - which we may then associate with the product.
So how can we rephrase this and still convey the same message?
“Enjoy the shade and comfort of window blinds today”. Immediately, words such as ‘enjoy’ and ‘comfort’ are conjuring a softer mood. A more positive mood.
Simply put, positive words create positive feelings and negative words create negative feelings. And while there’s nothing wrong with touching upon the customer’s current issues and less-than-satisfactory circumstances, try to focus more on what they can gain and enjoy from the service, rather than what is lost or what is bad at the moment.
Broaden your vocabulary
Now, this doesn’t mean cracking open a thesaurus and going to town. After all, we don’t want to sound pretentious or lose all meaning.
What we do want to do, however, is to be aware of repeating the same words too many times in a short space. Instead, we should favour more diverse vocabulary. And why is this worth doing? A 2002 study by Hosman showed that increasing lexical diversity can invoke more positive emotions in the reader, and boost the overall persuasiveness of the text.
The order matters
Have you heard of the primacy/recency effect? It’s very simple. It means that we are more likely to remember the first and last piece of information we are told. This principle can be applied to USP lists, articles, service pages, emails - almost anything really.
By putting the key bits of information at the beginning and end, whether that’s the biggest selling point or a call to action, you can be sure that the reader is more likely to retain these details. Of course, this doesn’t mean getting sloppy in the middle. All we’re saying with this tip is to think more smartly about how you order information on a page.
Quantify your claims
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, stats are pretty persuasive. And there’s lots of ways we can use this principle in our work. For example, saying ‘established for 30 years’ has more trustworthiness than vaguely saying ‘established for many years’. Likewise, some facts and figures to support your claims can bolster the authority of your writing.
Jakob Nielsen, an eye-tracking expert, has also discovered that because many people scan-read, our eyes pick out numbers from the midst of letters, drawing our gaze to them and giving them an extra element of importance.
Include the reader
People want to feel a sense of belonging, of being part of an in-group. Direct, personal and inclusive language prevents our copy from sounding too distant - instead, it will read more like we are personally addressing our reader, which is more engaging and memorable.
For example, rather than saying ‘people need their coffee in the morning,’ you could switch to ‘we need our coffee in the morning’. Immediately, the reader feels part of something and is more relatable. Using the word ‘you’ is also an easy, effective way of speaking straight to your audience.
And as a final tip, putting your reader in a named group also works wonders. For example, ‘thrill-seekers like you’ or ‘as a coffee-lover, you want…’ You’re giving your reader a name, a group, an identity that makes them feel part of something.
By now, you probably realise that copywriting and psychology work in partnership more than you first thought. We hope you found these tips useful - so good luck and happy writing!