How Verbs Help You Convert

There's nothing quite like a verb! Verbs represent action and movement; they are about doing. Even more important, they allow you to see yourself doing.

We've talked extensively about how you must connect your customers to an emotional reality in which they can see themselves enjoying the benefits of what you have to offer, and in which they can see themselves taking the action you want them to take.

None of us takes action until we can grab on to a mental image of the consequences of taking that action. The fastest verbal way to tap into the emotional, imaginative abilities of our right brains is through verbs. No doubt about it ... verbs can be your most powerful persuasive allies.

Beyond action

The author Joseph E. Wright writes,

Verbs are great words. They enable us to describe actions or states of being or feelings we'd be hard pressed to convey without them. ... Still, if verbs are indispensable in our speech and in our writing, why do we neglect them so? ... You can blame it on the nouns and adjectives. ... Adjectives we can sometimes live without, but for the most part we have been brainwashed ... to use adjectives. As writers, we use them extensively, carefully choosing, then eliminating, then choosing again, until we feel we have the perfect adjectives to describe our protagonist, our settings, our emotions. I suspect much of your time as a writer is devoted to being so very particular in the adjectives you use.

Adjectives don't really help us create compelling, persuasive mental images. They can suggest a state of being, but their function ultimately 'tells' us more than it 'shows' us. You can tell me about a mango: it is luscious and delicious and juicy. Or you can show me a mango: the juice escapes and drizzles down your chin; your tongue explores the complex taste; the flesh caresses your mouth.

My buddy Anthony Garcia describes the difference between adjectives and verbs as "the difference between a paint roller and an artist's brush - adjectives good for painting the walls, good for background, but verbs solidify an image in a person's minds."

Beyond boring

Verbs do more that injection action and presence into your writing. They can also define the quality of that action.

He looked at the woman.

His eyes pierced the woman.

His eyes undressed the woman.

His eyes contemplated the woman.

See how different a look can be?  See how a verb can communicate more than a common action?

Why use 'walk' when I might amble, trudge, toddle, pace, stroll or mince? I could "walk with difficulty." But that communicates less information than if I said I "staggered" or "hobbled" or "limped." These words draw you not only into the circumstance, but also the emotional dimension of my walk.

Why use 'make' when, depending on the situation, I could fashion, craft, beget, construct, create, knock out, whip up, forge or arrange?

Verbs in hyperlinks

One of the most important uses for verbs in online writing is in hyperlinks. Verbs are the essence of your calls to action (as opposed to your points of resolution).

When you pair an imperative verb with a meaningful implied benefit, you help maintain persuasive momentum. NEVER (yep, that's a shout) settle for the useless and hackneyed "Click Here" when you could offer encouragement like "Read the whole article" or "See our diamond settings" or "Locate the store nearest you."

Don't just hope folks will click. Use your verbs and give them a reason to click!

Verbs in product descriptions

Read this:

Logitech Freedom 2.4 Cordless Joystick from The Freedom 2.4™ Cordless Joystick allows you to enjoy the performance of a corded joystick without the cord. With the strength of the 2.4 GHz cordless technology it delivers top gaming performance plus a 20-foot range. The cordless joystick features 10 programmable buttons including a durable metal trigger, eight-way hat switch, twist handle, and a precise throttle. Fly your plane, drive your car, and then kick the ball around without being frustrated by controller configuration. The included Logitech Profiler software lets you easily manage and switch between your Logitech game controllers. The software includes profiles for hundreds of popular games and you can also download new game profiles. Plus, its cool design featuring brushed aluminum and metal highlights gives the Freedom 2.4™ a winning look.

Now read this:

X-Arcade Joystick from Install your X-Arcade™ and instantly relive those adrenaline-pumped moments in the arcade, battering the joystick, pounding the buttons, grinding your teeth, and tasting the thrill as you make your mark as the arcade game's top scorer. ... Yank back on the joystick and mash away at the fire buttons. Get lost in the rush of the game just like you would on a real arcade game.

X-Arcade™ is a line of bulletproof industrial quality arcade game controllers and gaming products that inject the ultimate arcade game experience into your PC, MAC™ or game console.

With your X-Arcade™ Joystick, you can reverse time and play the classics ... the only thing missing is a place to drop in your quarters.

Which of these product descriptions has you imagining the experience of a joystick in your hands?

More than any other online copy, product descriptions suffer from an over-reliance on adjectives. Too much telling about the product rather than showing how it can be used. At the moment your customer has navigated your system and found a product, you need to set the hook and start reeling with your verbs.

Instead of droning that your backpack is lightweight, you could instead convey the same fact and put the customer in the picture by writing, "Fling it onto your back. You'll barely notice it's there! And your shoulders will thank you."

Instead of saying your Indispensable Little Black Dress is wrinkle-free, fuss-free and takes up no space whatsoever, say, "Crumple it in a ball and stuff it in a corner of your suitcase. Slip it on at a moment's notice to amble through the market or promenade at the opera."

Fear not the noble, mighty verb. Start making it the focus of your copy, bask in its utter glory!

And while you are thinking about re-verbilizing your copy, think about joining us at our next Persuasive Online Copywriting Workshop, July 10-11, 2006, for our unique perspective on writing that truly earns its keep!

Volume 132: 6/12/06

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