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Power Words

Power Words are words that are known to have an instinctive impact on the human mind. They pack a punch – think, for example, of mutilate, explosive, vanquish, superior, or lucrative. All are strong words that are pre-loaded with emotional weight, whether it’s fear, happiness, levity, notions of romance, greed, or something else.

AutoCrit helps to identify where you have used these known words, so you can track the expected emotional response to your writing.

Power words most often come in the form of verbs, adjectives, and, to a lesser extent, adverbs.


AutoCrit Power Words report - summary screenshot


What to look out for

First, ensure that any power words you have used throughout a passage or chapter match the emotional response you desire from your reader.

Packing a romantic chapter with power words that tend to elicit a fearful response probably isn’t a great idea – so keep an eye out for clusters of power words that might be taking your writing in the wrong direction.

Even if it reads well, the words themselves might be generating mental imagery and an overall “feel” that doesn’t quite match your intent.

On top of that, a general rule of great writing is to swap adverb-verb combinations for a stronger verb – a power verb, so to speak.

But since power words stand out so much for their impact, too much use can be just as bad as using none at all. Stuff your prose with an unending wealth of power words and they’ll stand out more than they should – and that means your writing starts to feel forced, hackneyed and pulpy.

Using the Power Words report, skim through your manuscript to check for clusters of power words that look too tightly packed. You may want to think about rewriting those sections so as not to pull your reader out of the experience.

Note: “General” power words are words that don’t quite fit neatly into just one of the other emotional boxes, but do still pay attention to them.


The bottom line

Owing to their strength, power words should be used wisely and in the right places so they generate the correct emotional response at the right time. Overuse of power words may make your writing feel overblown, pulpy, or unimaginative.

You should check that the overall use of power words in your manuscript matches the emotional core of your story and that their distribution matches the intended effect in specific passages or chapters.

Write better. Right now.