At WordHound, we like to give our professional content writers a few pointers when they join the club*. One pointer is that it’s a good idea to try to write in a way that tickles a reader’s emotions. (Ideally, the more positive emotions, but sometimes it’s nice to have a good long cry too, isn’t it? Perhaps not when you’re reading about summer holiday packages though.) Now, this isn’t because we want our writers to be all soft and fuzzy. It’s because emotive writing is one of the best ways to get readers to engage with your content.
What is emotive writing?
Emotive writing doesn’t mean that you need to write about being happy, or angry, or sad. If it did, emotive writing would be as easy as falling off a cake. But like most things in the world of professional content writing, it’s more complex than it seems on the surface. Emotive writing is about using your words, and the overall design of your content, to make your readers feel something specific.
Let’s take a look at a quick retailer example.
Think about meerkats. Now, somehow, these little mongoosey creatures have achieved the impossible; they’ve managed to get ‘fun’ and ‘insurance’ together in the same sentence. (You may feel that ‘annoyance’ or ‘rage’ would be closer to the mark than ‘fun’, and that’s entirely your call.) Today, many people looking for insurance (maybe even you) have automatically chosen to use a certain comparison site because it isn’t associated with boring insurance – it’s associated with fun and entertainment. Or irritation and soul-sucking ennui, if that’s your take on the comedy rodentoids in question. The way these ads are written makes us feel happy and joyous (or ill and tired – again, your shout), and who doesn’t like feeling happy and joyous?
Why should you care?
Because humans are wired for empathy. Anyone who’s ever met my former GCSE German teacher would question that fact. But if scientists say it’s true, then who are we to argue? The reason that emotion plays a big part in the decision-making process comes down to something called appraisal theory.
Appraisal theory is a bit complicated, but essentially it’s based on the idea that our emotions link us back to previous events. So, imagine you’ve written an article about climate change, and you’ve filled your reader with angry emotions. According to appraisal theory, this makes the reader think of other times they’ve felt angry; to evaluate (or appraise) these events, and use them as risk assessments for deciding whether they should take the action your content wants them to, or walk away. A writer should be able to evoke emotions that make the reader want to act.
How to use emotive writing
We mentioned that emotive writing is about using words and design features that make the reader feel, and that’s really all there is to it. Optimise the design of your blog post or article, and use language that leaves its mark on a reader; make them really think, not just read.
● Emotive design
We can already feel the eye-rolls coming on, so before we go any further let’s clear something up. We know that there are people who fully believe in the idea of colour psychology, and people who think it’s a big bucket of pig-wash. We’re going to talk about it anyway. Why not?
Colour psychology looks at how different colours can make us feel differently; red is supposed to be exciting, orange makes us feel friendly, and green can bring feelings of peace. You’ll find colour psychology absolutely everywhere you look. Ever wondered why a lot of charity logos have blue in them (Guide Dogs, RSPCA, Cancer Research UK, Lifeboats, Mind, Alzheimer’s Society, Marie Curie, Age UK…)? It’s because, according to the rules of colour psychology, blue means dependable.
So, the use of colour in the design of blog posts and articles might have some sort of impact on human emotion, human behaviour, and the decision-making process. Whether it actually does or not… well, that’s something you’ll have to make up your own mind about.
● Emotive language
Emotive language is a little less hocus-pocusy. It’s simply about incorporating words into your content that are attached to human emotion. Imagine you’re writing a teaser for a new product launch, and you’ve been tasked with generating a little pre-launch buzz. To tantalise the curiosity emotion, you might use words such as ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’. Or if you were writing about a limited-time offer, you might use phrases such as ‘missing out’, ‘save money’, or ‘don’t get left behind’ to evoke urgency.
These words and phrases may seem simple, but they resonate with audiences. Using the latter example, writing ‘buy now’ is something that an audience will read but not feel; it’s something that doesn’t produce an emotional response (other than, in some cases, “no, I bloody well won’t.”) ‘Missing out’, however, goes further. It shows readers what the consequences could be if they didn’t take action; it works to show how it affects them in particular. On top of that, emotive language can also help give a blog personality, which is never a bad thing.
Writing with emotion
It’s important to write with emotion, and it’s a skill we think is essential for all professional content writers. Blog posts and articles should be educational, informative, accurate, and persuasive… but they’re best when they really connect.
*We tried calling it “the pack” but too many of them laughed at us 🙁