Magic Words by Jonah Berger

first trick in the bag: using words that activate a sense of identity. One way to do this is to use nouns instead of verbs. In 2008, political strategists used this principle to increase voter turnout. Instead of encouraging people to “vote,” campaigns talked about “being a voter.” It worked: voter turnout rose by 15 percent.

Another way to activate our own sense of identity is to use the word “don’t” instead of “can’t.”

speak in the present tense. When the author and his colleagues analyzed millions of product reviews, they found that those written in the present tense were rated as more helpful than those written in the past tense.

Asking “What problems does the laptop have?” instead of “Is there anything I should know about the laptop?” makes sellers about 50 percent more likely to be honest about any existing issues with the laptop.

the more concrete language the service employees used, the more satisfied the customers left the conversation. And not only that: customers also spent 30 percent more money with the retailer in the following weeks.

complicated expert jargon like “identifying a value proposition” can be replaced by simple language, such as “making a case for why people should buy the product.”

When researchers analyzed the impact of different startup pitches, they found that those that used more abstract language were more likely to receive investment. Abstract language made investors think a startup idea had more potential for growth.

Appealing to emotions doesn’t work across the board though. When researchers analyzed Amazon reviews, they found that emotional language works best for lifestyle products such as music, movies, and books. For utilitarian products such as razors, tools, or appliances, emotional language actually backfired. Emotional reviews were rated as less helpful.

linguistic similarity is an important aspect of community-building. Individuals who adopt the same language as their group, meaning they use similar phrases and expressions, are more likely to remain part of that group. When researchers analyzed the email communication of employees of a mid-sized firm, they found that those whose linguistic style matched that of their coworkers were three times more likely to be promoted. On the flip side, employees with a different linguistic style were four times more likely to be fired.

In the creative arena, things that stick out because of their dissimilarity tend to be more memorable and popular. So if you’re in a field that values creativity, innovation, and originality, not talking like the others may benefit you.

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