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Power Words: Use Them to Strengthen Your Writing

By Elaine Sambugaro |


In a literal sense, no word is a power word. All words are abstract things because they represent the idea of objects, not the actual objects. Yet all writers learn early on in their career to differentiate between the meaning of a concrete word – also known as a "power word" – and the meaning of an abstract word.

The main difference is that a power word defines tangible objects, such as a shoe, a ship or an egg. It can also be a verb or action word that moves a sentence forward, providing meaning and scope. In contrast, abstract words define emotional, intellectual or spiritual states of being. Some examples of abstract words are patience, hope, candor, truth, anger, beauty, negligence, temperament.

The general rule for good writing is to be as concrete as possible. Illustrate your propositions tangibly and avoid vague abstractions. That's not to say abstract words should never be used, as some famous writers such as Abraham Lincoln, Samuel Johnson and D.H. Lawrence frequently used them. Yet I have found that they can cause unnecessary confusion when writing business-related material.

Power words are plain

Article sections:

Power words are plain
Power words are active words
Power words are accurate
A final point

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