They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and do you know what? I think they may just be right. As a trained clinical hypnotherapist, English language coach and copywriter, I have come to appreciate and know the importance and power of the written word.
Words have an astonishing versatility which can be put to use for an almost infinite number of goals and purposes. Of course, these also include a variety of techniques which when applied by any copywriter can have a subtle but deliberate effect on the reader’s subconscious mind.
Here are 6 simple but effective ‘hypno-word’ hacks you can employ in your writing.
1. The Universal Quantifier
“We are an impossibility in an impossible universe” – Ray Bradbury
A universal quantifier is simply a clever way to describe all encompassing, big global words such as ‘all’, ‘everyone’, ‘always’, ‘most people’ and ‘nobody’. Why are they useful for a copywriter? Because they imply there are no exceptions (and hence no choices).
Here is a basic example; “Everyone thinks it’s hard to make lots of money. But with these simple tips anyone can become rich”.
See how it works?
2. The Binder
“One of the things that binds us as a family is a shared sense of humour” – Ralph Fiennes
The ‘bind’ sentence is great because it appears to give the reader options and the illusion of choice, whereas in fact it only really gives a limited choice of comparable alternatives – one of which the reader usually subconsciously feels bound to accept.
There are several types of ‘binds’ from the ‘simple’ variety e.g. “Would you like to buy this sofa or that one?” to the ‘double bind’ e.g. “Be spontaneous now”.
3. The Tag Question
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers” – Voltaire
This is the act of adding a question to the end of a statement to soften the target’s resistance and gently guide them into passive agreement. Here are some simple examples “Today is the day you are going to stop smoking. It is, isn’t it?” or “Take control of your future today, you would like that wouldn’t you?”
Why does the ‘Tag’ question work? Probably because it helps distract and divert the conscious part of the mind from any objections to the main core statement, does it not?
4. The Truism
“You can observe a lot just by watching” – Yogi Berra
Perhaps my favourite of them all because most of the time they apply to everyone, which means the target audience cannot really easily dispute them. Plus they can be used to target different physical senses or even time periods.
Here is what I mean “Most people love the feeling of the warmth of the sun on their skin and the gentle rolling sound of waves as they pleasantly stroll along beautiful sunny beaches’.
Get the picture?
5. The Unspecified Reference
“My first novel is loaded with food references largely because my cupboards were bare, and I was writing hungry” – Jan Karon
Unspecified references are statements that might sound really great and helpful but if you examine them closely actually lack much specific information or tangible reference points.
Confused? Then let me show you an example; “There have been periods in your life when you have had to call on great reserves of courage and inner strength. They were there for you then, and will be there for you now and in the future”.
Now of course I have no idea about the life history of every single reader. But generally speaking the statement works because people subconsciously start rifling through their mental filing cabinet to remember a time when the statement was in fact true.
In most cases you will find a suitable example from your own past and thus make sense of (and agree with) this statement.
6. The Reverse Psychology
“I try to lie as much as I can when I’m interviewed. It’s reverse psychology. I figure if you lie, they’ll print the truth.” – River Phoenix
Last but certainly not least is ‘reverse psychology’. This really can work, but you have to be subtle and very clever about how and when to use it effectively. So how does it work? Well, you know those people who always do the opposite of what you tell them? Well they are perfect examples of it in practice.
Essentially what you have to do is a) establish what it is you want someone to do (that they probably don’t) and b) without actually telling them, very subtly make them think that it’s their idea to do it.
It’s a key component of how someone can get a date by playing hard to get. It’s also how luxury brands can woo their customers.
Here is a tag line from a classic Rolls Royce ad from the 1960’s (featuring a close up of a stunning car and a handsome, debonair man resting on its massive wheel arch); “Let me tell you about the very rich, they are different from you and me”. Dated sure, but doesn’t it make you feel a tiny bit envious?
So there you have it, some simple ways to make your copy more compelling.
You can see (and hear) examples of these language patterns all over the place from alluring adverts to persuasive politicians. I find it good practice to keep my eyes (and ears) peeled for these techniques. It’s good for developing your own skills and of course useful to stop being inadvertently misdirected yourself, isn’t it – if you know what I mean?
Mat Hiscox is our resident critical thinker, proofreader, language coach, NLP practitioner, bodyworker (yep we did say that), and much much more. You can read more about Mat Hiscox here
Also published on Medium.
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