7 Attention-Grabbing Words for the 21st Century

by Travis Heermann on June 1, 2010

Culture evolves and language evolves with it. Words that worked in 1950 will not necessarily work in the 21st century. The following list of words seize the attention of your audience–whether your audience is sales prospects, potential donors, or voters–and elicit powerful internal responses with American audiences. In the direction our culture is evolving, these words will hold up for decades to come.

Casual elegance – Americans are a casual people. We call each other by our first names, wear jeans, embrace egalitarian ideals, and eschew formality. But we don’t want to think of ourselves as sloppy either, or shoddy. We enjoy life’s pleasures, however simple they might be. We might not always want to be sophisticated, but elegance connotes comfort, grace and timeless beauty. This phrase shows people that elegance can be enjoyed by casual folks.

Efficient – In a world where environmentalism and “green” enterprises are a growing trend, efficient and its noun equivalent, efficiency, are words that are closely tied to ideas of energy conservation and wise use of resources, but without the stodginess of those words. Moreover, efficiency is often achieved by innovation in technology and processes, lending this word a double impact. Such language appeals to audiences especially if they want to consider themselves ecologically conscientious.

Imagine – This could well be the king of powerful words. The word itself is a non-threatening command to allow the audience to create their own imagery. The key to any effective persuasion is to allow the audience the space to come over to your side, to let their own minds draw them in. If your writing can capture your audience’s imagination–and lead it–they’re more likely to follow you and your message.

Independent – America was founded on a Declaration of Independence. We pride ourselves on our individuality, our pioneer spirit, our ability to handle things, to do it our own way. If you can make your audience feel more independent, that doing things your way, buying your product, or just listening to your message will let them express their own individualistic attitudes, or cast off their unwanted ties and obligations, your message will have their full attention.

Innovation – In the 21st century, the world is changing so fast that the future is already here. With every scientific advancement, we are reminded of how cool the future could be. Innovation connotes advancement, efficiency, improvement, smaller (or bigger, as the case may be), lighter, better, tougher, cheaper. It ties in closely with boldness, pioneer spirit, and independence.

Lifestyle – We choose to define ourselves through the multitude of small choices that we make every day, to arrange the trappings and activities of our lives to create how we view ourselves. It represents our individualism, our independence. We all want to live our vision of “the good life,” and the notion of shaping our lifestyle gives audiences a sense of potential, of empowerment. This is critical for building those bridges you want your audience to cross.

Peace of Mind – This phrase connotes the idea of security, but without the politicization that has come to be associated with that word. It’s kinder, softer, with positive results in mind. We want our lifestyles to be free from worry, fear, or drama. Peace of mind is the result of all the effort or unpleasant things that might have to happen first. It lets the audience imagine the happy ending.

Source: Luntz, Frank. Words that Work: It’s not What You Say, It’s What People Hear. New York: Hyperion. 2007.

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