Romance 101: How to Use Feminine
Words That Sell

image of lipstick kiss

If gender stereotypes make you uncomfortable, there’s a good chance you’re going to hate this post.

Because this post is overflowing with gender stereotypes. It’s all about identifying, valuing, and celebrating the feminine.

Today I’m going to talk about the use of words that are traditionally considered “feminine” to spice up your copy. Why would you want to do that?

Well for one thing, whether you know it or not, you’re probably writing for a female audience.

The economic power of women

Women’s buying power has increased tremendously in recent years. Mothers alone account for $1.3 trillion of sales per year. Women either make or influence buying decisions for all sorts of things, from cars to home furniture, from clothing (for the entire family, not just the gals) to electronics.

Even if you’re marketing to what you think of as a “male” market, it can still pay to have a feminine appeal. That dude reading your copy is very likely to have a girlfriend, wife, or mother who’s going to sign off on making that purchase. If he thinks buying your product will make him look dumb in her eyes, he’s a lot less likely to hand over his credit card.

So listen up. Slaying dragons and pumping the testosterone aren’t the only ways to put feeling and excitement into your copy.

The enduring popularity of romance

Where can you find feminine words? Nothing is as feminine as romance fiction, and numbers show women are continuing to lap it up.

As the economic recession raged, do you think women ditched their romance reading habits? Hardly. Romance fiction made $1.37 billion in sales in 2008 and, in fact, had the largest share of the book market (13.5 percent).

To find feminine words that have been proven to sell to women, I mined the titles of the late Barbara Cartland, whom Vogue magazine called “the Queen of Romance.” And for good reason. Cartland sold more than a billion copies of her books. She certainly knew a thing or two about writing purchase-inducing titles.

10 romantic words that sell

Here are 10 unabashedly feminine words that have also been proven to sell.

Love

As John Lennon sang. “All we need is love,” and this word doesn’t only dominate the titles of romance fiction. It’s commonly used in songs as well. Maybe it’s because love is what we’re all longing for. Yes, guys too. Even if you don’t always admit it.

Heart

Now becoming synonymous to “love” (e.g., “I heart Copyblogger”), this word is increasingly used to soften traditionally tough topics: “business with a heart,” “writing for the heart,” “selling from the heart.”

Secret

As the stereotype would have it, women love to keep, tell and discover secrets. Actually, so does everybody else. This word appears in all the headline swipe files of those (male) copywriting masters.

King, Queen, Princess, Prince (or some other honorable title)

Women are fascinated with royalty. Blame it on fairy tales. But it’s not just women who respond to a market position as the “King,” “Queen,” or “Duke” of your niche.

Temptation and Forbidden

That darned Eve started it all, giving into temptation and making Adam bite the forbidden apple. These are still two irresistible words to make your copy more compelling.

Cloud, Moon, Stars (and other celestial bodies)

These words evoke freedom, creativity, and unlimited possibilities. No wonder women love them.

Heaven, Paradise

We use these words to describe ultimate pleasure, goodness and perfection. “How was the spa?” “It was heaven!”

Kiss

Sweet, mysterious and seductive, a kiss is the ultimate romantic word.

Virgin

Here’s one word that’s sure to make your heart race — whether you’re male or female. And of course, Richard Branson, a masculine guy if ever there was one, built an entire mega-brand around it.

Magic, Enchanted, Bewitched (and other references to the supernatural)

Our fascination with these words is another result of childhoods molded by fairy tales. The idea of having a fairy godmother to make all our dreams come true and get rid of our evil stepmother is simply irresistible.

Take your magic wand and transform your copy

Here’s the real test. How do romantic words hold up in real-world copy? To find out, I decided to give a romantic makeover to the same copy Ali Hale put a heroic twist to.

Here’s what I came up with:

Plain: “Solve Email Problems”
Heroic: “Battle Your Email Overload”
Romantic: “Love Your Email Inbox Again”

Plain: “Stop Procrastinating”
Heroic: “Defeat Procrastination”
Romantic: “Kiss Procrastination Goodbye”

Plain: “Advice to Help You Do Better”
Heroic: “Advice to Help You Win”
Romantic: “Advice to Make You a Star”

Plain: “Ditch Your Bad Habits”
Heroic: “Conquer Your Bad Habits”
Romantic: “Make Your Bad Habits Disappear Like Magic”

Women’s pockets are growing bigger and deeper. Isn’t it time our copywriting and marketing language caught up?

If your writing is bland, sprinkle a little romance into it. You don’t always have to resort to pumped up, violent imagery to put more zing in your copy. A little romance may be just the flavor your readers are craving.

About the Author: Lexi Rodrigo is a copywriter and online marketing consultant who used the words “love,” “heart,” and “passion” on her home page long before researching for this post.

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Comments

  1. I love how you contrasted Ali’s heroic copy with your romantic copy. Way to tie together two excellent ideas!

  2. Plain: “Solve Email Problems”
    Heroic: “Battle Your Email Overload”
    Romantic: “Love Your Email Inbox Again”

    Not sure that anyone ever loved their inbox but some good thoughts on how to use language differently to appeal to different audiences.

  3. Lol! I don’t deliberately attempt to gender-focus my writing, but I HAVE noticed that this sort of word choice attracts more female comments/retweets :)

    Venkat

  4. Great post of examples! When you do think of feminine words to use, the message becomes wrapped in a hopeful, happy vehicle that exudes a positive vibe. Great technique!

  5. I heart this! I am going to pick up some of our most feminine catalogs and do some reading with an eye for romance. I am going to think about expressing a “feeling” instead of just finding a “word” when I work my copy magic.

  6. LOL! I laughed throughout reading this post. Little did I know that I already do this. I use the word “Love” a lot even in my business posts and it is because I do believe in the power of love.

    Great eye opening post!

    Thanks

    Iyabo

  7. I’m a newbie and just starting and one of the first articles on blogging was from Copyblogger and I’ve been a fan ever since. It helped me get some idea of what I was doing. Really enjoyed this article. I get a lot of e-mails selling affiliate marketing products and I’ve noticed that some of them are beginning to use ‘feminine’ adjectives in their headlines.

  8. @Sean Platt – The contrast does highlight how our choice of words affects the impact of our headlines, doesn’t it?

    @Robert Latchford – Wasn’t there ever a time when your heart skipped a beat every time you heard the “ping!” of a new message on your inbox?

    @Venkat – Exactly!

    @Weathertech – “Positive vibe,” I like that! So much better than the blood and gore of masculine copy, don’t you think?

    @AnneRose – Awesome! Let’s put more romance and less violence in copy. “Let’s make love, not war.”

  9. Great tips here. I’m working on a series of vacation articles, and keeping these more romantic terms in mind will help make the tone more upbeat and happy – exactly the kind of writing you want for travel stories. Thanks!

  10. like others, I really appreciated and learned from your “heroic” vs. “romantic” examples. This is definitely a keeper for those brainstorming sessions. Thanks so much!

  11. I’ve never discounted the buying power of women. Being in sales for almost a decade and a half, I’ve seen the power that women have over purchases made by men. Not to mention their own purchases. For large ticket items, you would be surprised at how many women give the ultimate “yes” or “no” on the transaction.

    Sell the woman first and the man will follow…

    You give some lovely insights into ways to “spice up” ones writing… It’s sounds like you broke the woman code by giving up these forbidden secrets women just don’t want men to know about… ;)

    BTW, in today’s society. I bet those words appeal to a lot of the metro men out there too…

  12. Interesting post… I run a women’s network and deliberately avoid using all these feminisations, love, heart, kiss etc because I don’t want the site to appear too girly… looks like I need a re-think! I will try an experiment this week and see what difference it makes :)

  13. Good write Lexi.

    What’s really neat about this idea is brick and mortar businesses can benefit, too.

    Jeff Sexton has an audio link of an ad that did just that for a watch store. They sold more watches on father’s day that any other day ever because of it.

    (“Daddy’s little Girl” is the hyperlink text).

    Worth your time to hear the audio file, as hearing it really brings home the point Lexi makes.

  14. Your post has cast a spell on me. I’ve been bewitched by the idea of using romance in my writing. I bow to you and kiss your hand.

  15. I agree with Sean, I like the contrast with the heroic title.

    This is a great addition to how to word a title. You can bet that I’ll be implementing this.

  16. Thanks for the reminder! Sometimes I get stuck in just stating the facts. Because my site caters to women I am sure to create more magical moments for my readers.

  17. @Cindy – Are your readers male or female? Would be interesting to see how differently you’d write the articles if they’re for a male audience, rather than female.

    @Sara – Happy to be of service!

    @BrianJUY – Oh, thank you for reminding us about the “metro” males :-)

    @Julie Hall – Why avoid feminisations? Why not embrace your and your audience’s girlieness instead? Let us know how your experiment goes, ok?

    @Marvin Wilson – See, now your comment really does stand out now that you’ve used romantic words. It’s simply magical.

    @Todd – Try it!

  18. I love this…a little play on words in your blog. This is such a great post I will retreet it…thanks

  19. Fantastic piece, Lexi, and I’m honoured to have inspired it! :-)

    Some of these words I’d naturally gravitate towards; others aren’t very me, but I can completely see them working for many women (and many men too, I’m sure).

    Words like “temptation” and “kiss” and “love” make me think of chocolate adverts, and I’m a sucker for those. ;-)

  20. Since I have a heavily-weighted feminine audience I appreciate the distinctions that you give here. There can definitely be a male tone to copywriting that most women just have to “deal with” and move one.

    I’m excited to try these new techniques in my upcoming posts to see if there is a change in the way comments come in, and more importantly, conversion.

    …definitely going to try and see if I can incorporate the masculine and the feminine in my copy. Is that possible?

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  21. These would make some great hypotheses to test in headlines, Lexi. Nice work.

    Have you A/B tested any of these yourself?

    Chris

  22. Hey Lexi,

    You’ve certainly demonstrated the opposing perspective to Ali’s article! I enjoyed both thoroughly because though one focuses on heroic language and the other on feminine, I think the most important takeaway is to approach your copy from a different perspective.

    Too often, we become comfortable with the same, redundant and uninspiring copy we produce that we forget to appeal to the audience and their unique sensibilities.

  23. Great post, Lexi. You’re applying romantic metaphors to any aspect of copywriting. I didn’t see Ali’s article: anyone have the URL?

  24. @Cathy, it’s linked in this post under “slaying dragons,” or you can find it here: http://www.copyblogger.com/heroic-language/ .

  25. It should be possible to use all ten words in a sentence, to describe anything….

  26. An interesting blog post for sure. I’ve written to predominantly female markets many times — and you have to use a very different tone to connect with them.

    Each market seems to be a little bit different (for instance, coaches vs. homeschool moms).

    I like the Plain / Heroic / Romantic examples at the end. Helps to see them side by side.

    Ryan

  27. Ouch. You were right, these do offend my feminist sensibilities. The examples are helpful, but definitely smack of Cosmo. And these days, not all women are Cosmo women. It definitely requires a fine balance between adding a little romance and relying on outdated stereotypes that will insult or turn off the very people we’re trying to reach.

  28. A wonderful reminder to all of us that “the hands that rock the cradle rule the world”. In my business, women make up 65 % of my clients. I try to balance my writing to reflect that. However, I’m getting a takeaway from this article that maybe I need to split off my site into two distinct sites with the same product. Then, I can use more hooks that appeal to a female audience on one site and use more macho, ego building hooks on my male focused site. It’s worth a try, as I believe those 10 romantic hooks could cut both ways. Guys like words like bold, control, dominate, winner, etc.

    I’ll report back.

  29. What a great post, Lexi. I’ve seen copy tie-ins of this sort before but never really gave much thought to how engaging it could be as an entire theme, and to women audiences. And I love your comparison to Ali’s “heroic” copy with your own “romantic” version – the examples really help to drive the idea home. I’ll have to try this sometime. ;)

  30. Mary E. Ulrich :

    Lexi, this is BRILLIANT, like the smile she gave when he…

  31. @Casey, I hear you. A few points that jump to mind. 1) I actually don’t find “Kiss procrastination goodbye” to be very “Cosmo” unless I put it in the context of this post. 2) The cover of Cosmo magazine is actually one of the best resources you will find anywhere to rework for headlines, and interestingly, the reworks don’t turn out to feel girly or stereotypically feminine.

    An example: on the current issue (you can get the cover at http://www.magazines.com without buying the mag) there’s a headline that says The New Male Sex Habit that Can Hurt a Relationship. That could be tweaked for a Copyblogger headline to read The New Online Reading Habit that Can Hurt a Blog.

    Obviously, every writer has to adapt the techniques to her own readers, her own audience, and what they care about. But I did find some of Lexi’s examples a refreshing antidote to the “Buy My Product and Dominate Your Whatever” headlines that are out there. They didn’t seem all that girly to me, they just seemed more approachable.

  32. Hi Lexi-
    I’m a business coach and I tend to write in heroic language. It just occurred to me that I actually write the majority of my articles with men in mind. Hmm- I wonder why that is? You’ve given me something to think about today.
    Perhaps I’ll sprinkle a little romantic language in the next article and see what happens.
    Pamela

  33. I own a local real estate blog, called Real Estate Gourmet, for İzmir, Turkey. I have been writing on that blog for over 2 years. The only time I get any substantial traffic to the site is when I spruce up the typically boring real estate article with some female stuff, ie; why my fiance was always right when looking for a new house,or, facebook-real estate & women triangle…
    I loved your article, or should I say I envy your article :)

  34. a great lesson in the importance of understanding your audience and crafting a message that resonates for them. Other comments have pointed to the fact that not all women are Cosmo women. This point underlines the idea that you can’t a catch all fish with the same bait. Clearly then, as is the case with all copy, connecting emotionally to the reader and understanding what motives and interests them specifically is key to catching and holding their attention.

  35. great information

    hope you keep offering this quality of information

  36. Great article, but I particularly LOVE the fact the you enclosed specific examples… Very Romantic! Best, Brian-

  37. I love this idea – and it can also be good in reworking/updating an old post for a new audience.

  38. You’ve touched my heart with this post.
    However 70% of my audience is male. Do you think they will respond positively with the feminine touch?

    thanks,

    Pam Mark Hall

  39. Overall theme really brought out the importance
    of not only targeted copy but the need for good copy.

    Makes me think What would be the right slant for my
    “gender” would be? Baby Boomers Re-Fund 101 – How to Recapture that spark as you Return to work to Re-fund your Retirement?

    Life is great and great articles put the icing on the cake!

  40. All of these terms are great–and absolutely true. As an Indep Avon Sales Rep/Advisor for almost 10 yrs the only term I see missing is ‘women inspire’–Of course, seems it might be hard for anyone in these economic times to be inspired by their 401K balance as of late–but the reality is: almost every action men have taken/acted on/accompished in history (including soem wars) seems to have been ‘inspired’ by some woman, somewhere. I still find this so interesting–except for the fact that Avatar was one of the best films this last year–due to the romantic theme (of course).

  41. Really useful post. I absolutely love the examples. Beautifully done.

  42. Wonderful!
    I’m in medical research, and today I tried to convince my fellow group-members to use more heroic (and romantic) words, but they wouldn’t do it ‘because it sounds stupid and it isn’t science-like’. Hate it.

  43. Lexi, I love this post! I have used heart and love in my copy but had not thought of why I was using them, nor considered any of the other words. This was a fresh and original piece that was eye opening! Thanks so much for sharing and I look forward to future installments of Romance 101! ;-)

  44. Well said Lexi !

    I LOVE my ‘work’, follow my HEART and it’s an open SECRET that I’m the KING of eco-friendly landscape designers: My aim is to inspire you to create a piece of PARADISE in your own backyard, and KISS those nasty pesticides good-bye.

    Which reminds me, as Oscar Wilde once said: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the STARS.”

    I may not know how to become a VIRGIN (again), but I sure know how to create a MAGIC, ENCHANTED garden.

  45. Good one, Lexi. Such a useful wakeup, with entertaining and instructive examples.

    Next stop the basically male, warfare/militarily biased language of sales and management training?

  46. Des, follow the link at “heroic twist” just before Lexi’s examples – we covered that type of copy recently. ;)

  47. There are some days when I might not love my inbox, but this post certainly reminds me not to miss out on the magic of great communication. Good work, Lexi!

  48. PS I forgot to add that (as Oscar W. once said), I can resist anything except TEMPTATION.

    And for FORBIDDEN fruit, as Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) once sang: It tastes so good, you gotta eat it.

  49. I love this, Lexi! As a non-mushy type woman when I first started to read your article I was thinking I can’t do this. But as I kept reading and then saw the examples it all made sense. Very creative and loving the psychological feminine spin!

  50. Love this post. Apparently I need more heroes and romance in my copy. lol Thanks for the tips.

  51. Holy cow, this is the best article I’ve read in a while. Would LOVE more articles like this at Copyblogger. I hate making comments as shallow as this, but seriously, great article.

  52. I love this idea – it definitely stands out from the usual posts about writing great headlines. I have another one – how about words like ‘diamond’ or ‘platinum’?
    Thanks again for the post – I’ve already used it to change the title of the piece I’m currently working on!

  53. Hurray, you have touched the right nerve & i believe your article wll surely enable understanding the sellers about the best buyers around.

    I am loving your post, nice one and great thought.

    Best of luck.

  54. I still could not think, brilliant idea kenepa always be with you, you are great, clever in using words that can pierce the reader feeling. I love this!

  55. Thank you for this! Especially the examples.

  56. I took notes and will re-write some blogs in a more “romantic” style. I enjoyed the samples supplied. Thanks.

    makaylacreations.blogspot.com

  57. As a technical writer I usually try to do it just the other way round, that is translate emotional texts into straight forward ones. But I will remember your hints when I have to write the next marketing stuff – great approach.

  58. I have always found women identify with feelings more than facts. Most marketers know that purchases are made more based on emotion than statement of fact.

    The contrasting examples you used were amazingly clear about how just a few emotional words can totally change the feeling of a statement.

    Do you think it is okay to mix dragonslaying with feminine or should they be used solo?

  59. Great advice. The examples you used really explained how I could put those feminine words into action! Thanks. I’m new here, but I’ll definitely be reading more!

  60. I find writing descriptions to be one of favorite parts of selling – it’s like the test to see hwta your work has to say for itself. This was an excellent and cohesive article, thank you!

  61. I though this was a great post on an over-looked marketing angle. Great examples and inspiration. I market B2B, but still 50% of those using my products are women!

  62. 90% of my customers are women…. We sell educational software. Last night I was doing the numbers and as much as 90% (or even more) are senoritas/senoras. Any other advice from this enlightened crowd for my business?
    Great post!!!!

  63. I just did a search to try to find more examples of “feminine” adjectives and all you get are pages about feminine gendered words in foreign languages!

    Your examples were great Lexi. Don’t spose anyone knows of any resources or other examples of feminine words?

  64. No wonder this post has so many comments – it’s great! I can’t wait to test out “heroic” and “romantic” tweets!

  65. I agree that romantic wording can add something to text but just watch out that romantic wording doesn’t read as patronizing. Like “Make Your Bad Habits Disappear Like Magic.” Personally I preferred the hero language. It felt empowering. I am woman, hear me roar. I am the master (or mistress as it were) of my own fate! The whole disappear like magic thing? It reads sort of like I am not the driving force behind it when in reality I have to be in order for it to work. Just an example.

  66. Lexi, I loved this post. Sounds odd, but it magically appeared in my inbox just now. I was tempted to hit delete due to its age, but, on second thought – touched open, and your words rained down on me like falling stars.
    —Yes, my poor attempt at being funny, even though that’s how it happened. I’ve been on the computer too long today. Your article convinced me about the use of feminine words, and I probably needed to read this, since I sometimes think such words are turn offs.

  67. Well done – thanks for the inspiration! I’ll be making some changes as a result.

  68. I heart your tips. I’m going to create some magic this week and use some romantic words. I’ve experienced more feedback from men when I related something to sports. Thanks

  69. Samantha Gluck :

    What a great piece! I just read this today and used the advice on a whim while writing a (supposedly) serious blog about sales and marketing. My article was chosen and I earned $80 from it! That is the most I have ever earned for one post. Thanks so much for this.

  70. Great headlines should always tap some type of emotion. These are great examples of how to tweak copy for an audience

  71. Lexi, great post! The art of writing in a compelling and persuasive way is very important in copywriting. And using the “language of love” is one of the most effective ways to write a compelling and persuasive copy that converts.

    I have found that I am easily “sold” to an idea or a product/service when the copy appeals to me as a woman, through the use of some feminine, gentle and loving language.

    As you rightly pointed out, it is women who make most purchasing decisions, so a winning copy must certainly appeal to the feminine reader, to some extent. I like the examples you have provided, and they show that with just some tweaks here and there, a copy can be transformed to appeal to the feminine audience. As they say – all we need is love – so, adding some emotion and romantic tones to a copy can bring amazing results. Thanks again, Lexi.

  72. I never though of this before reading this article. Now you got me thinking how I can incorporate this into the personal grow niche.

  73. Really really clever article and so true!

    Great to look at the power of words and how they impact on the women’s market.

    thanks so much for sharing, keep the wisdom coming :-)
    May

  74. “Love” the article, romantic copy has found a new place in my “heart.” I can definitely see how “secret” would be appealing, and not just to women. Sounds mysterious and inviting :)

  75. I know I’m late to the party, but this is something I’ve long felt passionate about. Masculine-Feminine balance and interdependence in all arenas, including marketing/copywriting — I love it. Good for you for painting this in such an enlightening way, Lexi!

  76. I keep coming back to this post. This time it was for the copy for the app I’ve just released: http://bit.ly/soundwand001 I managed to get in magical, secret, enchanted, bewitched, heart(felt), king/queen, virgin hopefully w/o going OTT!

    Might I add for consideration:: sooth, serenade and sophisticated…

    Anyway, thanks again and please excuse the shameless plug!