Six Tips for Writing Emotive Copy

Estimated reading time: 18 minute(s)

Great copy is all about evoking a feeling. Here’s how to do it.

Emotion. Contrary to what many of us believe, it’s the thing that carries the most weight when we’re making decisions. Desire, love, fear, guilt, and anger are powerful motivators. When you tap into emotions in your copy, your words have more power to influence readers.

The trick, of course, is writing emotional copy that actually resonates. If you fail, the results are disastrous: your copy can come off as offensive, melodramatic, or just lame.

Let’s look at six tips for writing copy that sparks an emotional response.

1. Speak your audience’s language

When it comes to copy that provokes an emotional response, fancy, highfalutin expressions just won’t do. People tend to respond better to short, simple words that echo the way they speak to friends and family. For example, think about which of these two sentences resonates more: “Creating emotional copy can be highly frustrating,” or “Writing emotional copy is super hard.”

Airbnb is one company that knows how to speak their customers’ language, and they use that ability to cozy up to their audience via clear yet powerful language. Their slogan, “belong anywhere” is a perfect example. In words that couldn’t be any simpler, it speaks to a universal need: feeling like we “belong.” If you want to tap into your readers’ emotions, you have to start by speaking their language.

2. Use trigger words

Some words provoke an instant reaction. Depending on which emotion you’re channelling, you can use trigger words like the following to heighten the effect:

  • Bold
  • Daring
  • Confident
  • Reclaim
  • Overcome
  • Empower
  • Safe
  • Tired
  • Uncomfortable
  • Exposed
  • Embarrassed
  • Helpless
  • Pointless
  • Greed
  • Hate

Bear in mind that these are just some of many trigger words. Also, don’t think simply throwing a trigger word into the mix will do all your work for you. Even powerful words can fall flat if you don’t lead up to them properly.

3. Leverage emotional attachments

Family, friends, pets—most readers have emotional attachments to the people and animals in their lives. People can also become emotionally attached to inanimate objects or places: books, furniture, houses, favorite vacation spots. When applicable, you can leverage those attachments to craft emotional copy.

How many of us have an emotional attachment to our favorite sports team? Coca-Cola took advantage of that to launch a series of custom NCAA coke bottles. And their copy puts the emotional attachment front and center: “YOUR TEAM, YOUR COKE.”

4. Unify the effect

If you start throwing out emotions all over the place, you won’t get the strong reaction you’re looking for—you’ll just leave your readers feeling confused. Instead, decide at the outset what emotional response you want a piece to elicit. That way you can create a clear, unified journey for your readers as you guide them toward your end goal.

For example, if you scroll through Capsule’s About Us page, you may start to get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. That’s probably because it’s a perfect example of unified copy, all designed to convince you that your days of worrying about medical prescriptions and insurance are in the past—from now on, Capsule will take care of you.

Just take a look at this excerpt:

We are the type of pharmacy made up of friendly, caring pharmacists who carry prescriptions straight to your door, at the tap of your phone. We are also people who take pleasure in looking after people and hope to take care of you for years to come.

Instead of listing a million reasons why you should choose Capsule as your pharmacy, this copy suggests the positive, inspiring emotions you’ll feel when you make the switch to Capsule. Turns out, that’s much more effective than a factual list.

5. Turn negative emotions into something positive

Sometimes, negative emotions like fear, anger, and guilt can be the strongest motivators. But to get them to work for you, you have to turn these negative emotions into something positive. As an example, take a look at this copy from Bessemer Trust, created during the financial downturn of 2008 to 2010:

RIGHT NOW, YOU HAVE TWO CHOICES. SINK OR SWIM.

Right now, people are frozen in place, afraid to make a move with their investments and assets. And why not? Institutions that seemed built on bedrock have fallen like houses of cards. Investors have been lied to, and left to pay the price for the recklessness and greed of others. Still, the worst thing you can do right now is to do nothing.

The ad goes on to prompt readers to entrust Bessemer with their finances, pointing out that the company invests its money right alongside the client’s. Because of that, they have a vested interest in seeing clients succeed—in other words, they won’t lie to you to make a profit.

Bessemer took advantage of the fear many people felt during a financial crisis to spur readers into action. To achieve this, they first called attention to the fear, then raised the stakes: sure, you may be scared now, but things will get even worse if you do nothing.

6. Be a mind reader

Great copywriters are mind-readers: they know what their readers are thinking and feeling—or at least, they can make a pretty decent guess. To write copy that resonates emotionally, you have to step inside your reader’s head for a moment. Think about the people you’re writing for. What do they do on a day-to-day basis? What are their dreams? What are their challenges?

For example, this Harley-Davidson copy from an in-magazine ad taps into the anger many Americans feel over politics:

It’s a free country, but have you felt like that lately?

Has the torch of liberty gotten a little dimmer? Do we still live in the home of the brave? As long as there are people willing to ask the questions, we’ll do our part to make sure a Harley-Davidson is the answer. Others may pull back in times like these, we’re launching 34 new ways to show the world what living free means, starting at $6,999. Haven’t been liberated yet by the experience of riding? Learn to ride in just a few days at an H-D dealer. Screw it. Let’s Ride.

Most people wouldn’t think of riding a motorcycle as the logical response to feeling angry with the government, but Harley-Davidson knew the anger was there and tapped into what many of their customers were feeling. Then they turned it into an opportunity to sell more motorcycles.

When you know more about who your readers are, what they struggle with, and what they want, you’re in a better place to write copy that will truly resonate—and truly bring results.

Need help getting that emotional response from your readers? Get in touch with us for clear, powerful copy that spurs customers to action.

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Erin Kahn

Erin pursued the written word in college because it seemed like the only natural thing to do. Now, as a copywriter, arts critic, and fiction author in New York City, she’s pretty sure she made the right choice. When she’s not crafting a brand article, legal blog post, or Off-Broadway review, Erin can usually be found working furiously on her latest book idea – at all hours of the night!

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