Give More Than Words for
Extreme Reader Response

Extreme

American rock band Extreme released the ballad More than Words in 1990. The romantic lyrics blended with melodic acoustic guitar soon became a huge hit, as the song raced up the charts all the way to number one.

More than words to show you feel that your love for me is real.
What would you say if I took those words away?
Then you couldn’t make things new just by saying I love you.

The theme is a simple one—show love with more than words. It’s a wonderful thought, making even the hardest hearts melt around the edges.

Look around you, though. What do you see? Words and text everywhere.

We blog in industrial quantities, we barrage the Internet with articles to drive traffic, and we slap up site after site looking for success. What else do we have but words?

Show, don’t tell, has to be one of the best ways of engaging other people. When words are all you have and you can’t show someone what you want to say, what else can you do?

Words can accomplish many things beyond informing readers. With words, you can tell someone your message, but you can accomplish more than words. You can paint a picture in a person’s mind. You can convey an emotion. You can make someone feel hate, love, trust, desire, disgust…

If your text doesn’t convey emotion, it will never reach a reader. A sales letter will never compel. Web content will never encourage action. A blog post won’t stimulate comment. A Tweet won’t entertain. A press release won’t be newsworthy.

In fact, stripped of emotion until there is nothing but words, your content and your website are going to be about as interesting as reading your latest telephone bill. Or your last bank statement. Or some old technical textbook.

If a person feels nothing when skimming the words, then nothing is what you’ll get as a result.

People need to feel something deep inside when they read. They’re tired of black and white letters on a screen – they want more.

They want more than words.

Reach out and touch them personally on an emotional level—with your sales copy, with your website content… with anything you write. Giving people more than words is the only way that you’ll engage them to buy, hire, or take action—because people will only make a move when they feel the need.

  • Try powerful, bold words steeped in strong authority.
  • Explore warm, gentle words infused with soothing comfort.
  • Select easy going, relaxed words for a casual effect.
  • Pick words that instigate, stir up and provoke a reaction that can’t be resisted.

Invoke the senses. Look beyond the words you write. Tap into the emotions and the feelings you can create on a simple page.

Give readers what they want—give them more than words.

About the Author: Get all the emotion you can handle over at Men with Pens, where James Chartrand uses more than words to rant, rave, and push people into action. Better yet, subscribe here.

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Comments

  1. Nice post, James… but I can’t resist this:

    With David Lee Roth, it was Van Halen.

    With Sammy Hagar, it was Van Hagar.

    What was it with Gary Cherone?

    Extreme-ly bad. :-)

  2. Amazingly insightful post as always, James.

    @ Brian – You made me nose my diet coke with that one. Too funny.

  3. LOL. Nice.

  4. (ooh, Brian, I disagree. As a huge VH fan of all eras Cherone sang his butt off in concert with VH. He was a class act, too! It was a no-win situation for him.)

    Excellent post.

    I would add, what about posts with nothing but photos, or art, to convey a point or emotion to your reader?

    I was just thinking how nice it’ll be to do that very thing on my blog after all the writing I’ve done for it.

  5. Every time I start to believe that I am beginning to grasp basic tenants of making my writing and blog a touch more marketable, a bit more personable, Copyblogger illuminates an idea in a brand new way, rephrases a concept that reaches me like never before, or simply reminds me that I have so much more left to learn.

    Thank you.

  6. Have to repeat Brian’s words..just have to… What was it with Gary Cherone? Oh Come on ! :)

  7. Content is still ‘where it is’. There are other wonderful tools, but the people just want something they can read…print and carry off to their reading corner or file away. Thanks for the reminder to keep some ectoplasm in our writing.

  8. James, very thoughtful advice. Creating emotional connections through words is not always an easy task. I believe it is why so many are experimenting with video, audio and other communication methods – that desire to reach readers with more than words. I also believe those connections can only truly be formed when we write with an authentic voice. Thanks for leading by example.

  9. ooh, Brian, I disagree. As a huge VH fan of all eras Cherone sang his butt off in concert with VH.

    It was Eddie’s stupidity to think he could switch out lead singers again like it wouldn’t matter. I’ll cut Cherone a break, but it was still really bad from the perspective of Van Halen’s overall career.

  10. Ah, thanks James, you’re touching on the core of what people must discover within, in order to be effective with the outreach. As a professional writer, I know well the courage it takes to write from a place inside that will actually resonate with a reader. It is NOT EASY, although sometimes you can be blessed with a good flow and the words ride in through the feelings. You can’t touch another heart unless you engage your own, and that reminds me of another song… “…I touch myself…” ha ha ha ha – but seriously folks.
    Sensible sensing leads to sensation!
    Suzanna
    Great Adaptations

  11. “Try powerful, bold words steeped in strong authority.
    Explore warm, gentle words infused with soothing comfort.
    Select easy going, relaxed words for a casual effect.
    Pick words that instigate, stir up and provoke a reaction that can’t be resisted.”

    Exquisite examples, James. Nice shove.

  12. Probably ages me, but I think of the BeeGees song “Words”:

    “It’s only words
    And words are all I have
    To take your heart away…”

    Words that evoke emotions? Probably the direct mail writers got this right before the “mainstream copywriters.”

    As I prepare to make my first video for my website, this piece (thanks, James!) is a great reminder. Because that reaction? It’s what we all want.

  13. James…I disagree with the post completly.
    This so-called “love song” although the words are sweet…is a typical rock ballad based around the need for sex (more than words) and strong handed male oriented points of view (What would you say if I took those words away)?.
    This is a song like the one by Sting, “every breath you take”, written as a sort of stalker point of view…yet the young audience miss-took it as a love song and it became a big hit. I do agree that the words are nice but the meaning of this particular rock ballad was not too nice.
    And as for VH the original was the best line up in my opinion..but that is just me.
    James I do enjoy gatting your post they are always a great read.
    Peter

  14. @ Janice – Everyone needs a good push.

    @ Suzanna – I am so not going there. :)

    @ Brian – Hey. You’re just pickin’ on the song. It’s actually a very nice one to learn on acoustic guitar.

    @ Karen – All I have to lead with are my words and ideas. I’m glad they create a little inspiration.

    @ Abhijeet – Alright, think up a better example for me :)

    @ Glenn – The day we say that we know everything is the day we should all retire our pens for good – because there’s always something new to learn.

    @ Sonia – Tell Brian you like the song.

    @ Bob – Better soda than tequila, I would think.

    Cheers everyone!

  15. Extreme and George Michaels in the same day? Feeling rather musical are we? Makes me want to think up a catchy title based on a song myself…but I won’t. At least not today.

    In my high school journalism class we had to evoke a powerful emotion in five words or less. It was a difficult exercise for a bunch of teenagers, but a good lesson.

    It doesn’t take many words to get one’s point across, just the right words.

    Nice post.

  16. @ Peter – I think if you played the record backwards, you might find even more flames to fan your fire.

    But I’ll never know. I don’t analyze the meanings of lyrics. I tend to take music at face value and enjoy it for what it inspires me to feel. The same way I tend to take writing at face value and enjoy it in a similar fashion.

    The song is about the fact that touch expresses more than words, yes. I’ll agree on that. Can writing not touch readers in a similar fashion? I think so.

    My first choice of songs was Kid Rock’s Cocky, but Brian said that while the shoe may fit, we’d best leave that choice out. ;)

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    @ Deb – There’s quite a lot of inspiration in music, I find, and I know that there’s a song for every situation. And hey. Come on. They were good picks. Unless you wanted Kid Rock, too? ;)

  17. Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy: The Kid Rock Guide to Abject Nonsense (That Rocks)

  18. They were good picks – and I’m always down for Kid Rock (much to the horror of my family who thinks I need to grow up).

  19. Wait- what?! Did you… How did you know I…DUDE! Are you PLAGARIZING MY WORK?

    Oh, no wait. I had curse words in mine. Carry on.

  20. @ Deb – Okay. I expect it from me. But from you? I think you just blew apart my mental image of you as thoroughly wholesome.

  21. @Deb Ng – I’m a big haired metal chick from way back, I’m afraid. I may not fit into my leather pants anymore but I still have them.

  22. James I dont play reconds backwards…lol
    I stand corrected…lol…best wishes.

  23. it’s a good post and the advice is sound, but the choice of song is not; Extreme’s More Than Words is an example of everything that was bad about rock at the very, very beginning of the 1990s… until Nirvana came along. Trite lyrics delivered by an embarrassing poodle-rock band. Rock lite.

    I think if the point was that it became a hit because it used simple words to make a simple point, then that says more about the desperation of the record-buying public in 1991 than anything else! ;) Hence, my feeling is using this particular track to illustrate your otherwise fine point is a bit of a backfire. But hey, that’s just me, I might be wrong… :)

  24. Even though that’s got to be my least favorite Extreme song, I love the post. Creating posts people crave reading are an art.

    The argument about Van Halen is unnecessary though…Extreme was a WAY better band.

  25. So what if the song sucked. The message of the post remains. Words can be powerful in judicious choice. As the great Will Ferrell said about songs, when introducing the “Best Song” category at the Oscars a few years back, “There is nothing more powerful in a director’s arsenal than a exquisitely chosen song.” Or something like that :)

    I am a big believer in the power of a well chosen word (check out the word porn at QRW for examples) It’s so true – the words you choose can convey so much. I agonize over my word choices for copy, even if my clients wouldn’t. Cus I’m anal like that.

    Great post! And great blast from the past…

  26. @QRW I couldn’t agree more…the song may not be my favorite, but the post (and its meaning) great. And I love your word porn…

  27. Whenever I read the Gary Halbert letters I feel a sense of connection. He certainly knows how to communicate on a deeper level.

    “Words are like fire they can either warm or they can burn”

  28. I love that song and it has wonderful memories from college. Sitting behind the gym, trying to figure out the harmonies (bit tricky, those) and just really enjoying good music and being with my best pals. God! This is sooo nostalgic making!

  29. James,

    “Paint a picture in someone’s mind…. Invoke the senses.” Well said. It’s something I’m always trying to improve in my writing, and in my other work as well. (Is there a field where it doesn’t apply? Even my accountant has to be relatable and grab my emotions—fear?—to stay my accountant for long.)

    I have to get inside my audience’s head, and think about their needs sincerely to get it right. More Than Words indeed. Some days I hit it, some days I’m surrounded by crumpled paper with ideas that wouldn’t grab anybody.

    & That song just chokes me up. Always did. It’s about touching (something wrong with that?), but it’s much more about taking out the garbage and making a dinner reservation when the other guy’s working late and sending flowers when you don’t have something to apologize for and all that.

    I think it’s about true feeling instead of using a veneer of three little words to fake it, which is exactly what good writing has to have to motivate readers. Brian, good choice!

    (Judy: I haven’t thought of that Bee Gees song in forever! Now it’s pleasantly rumbling around in my head.)

    (VH fans: It’s heresy I know, but Hagar first, then DLR for me.)

    Regards,

    Kelly

  30. Conveying images and emotion is a great way to put things – have never thought of it that way before. But thinking about it now it’s a characteristic that all the top bloggers have.

  31. As usual, great post James.

    I’d like to add a couple thoughts:

    1. Keep in mind who your niche customers/readers/etc. are. Be sure you write in their language. Write what matters to them because that will hit home even more than something written for everyone.

    2. Make good use of punctuation. Know when to let people know they should take a breath before reading on or not. If you’re trying to convey urgency, for example, you probably won’t use as many commas n stuff.

    3. Be personable. It is possible to invoke emotion in your readers without being very personable to them (a news story, for example). I think it strikes an even better emotion in your reader if they can connect with you on some level.

    4. Like you said, “use powerful, bold words steeped in strong authority” – people shouldn’t confuse that with big power words that many people don’t understand.

    5. Keep it as short and simple as possible – always hard to do. Listing features is a simple task to keep short and sweet, listing benefits usually takes more thought and length.

  32. I definitely agree with being descriptive and painting the picture so readers are actively involved in your content. The only caution I would give is with:

    “Try powerful, bold words steeped in strong authority.”

    You have to be careful that you are accurate and well referenced when making authoritative statements, especially if you are trying to assert yourself as the authority. You’ll look a bit silly if you say some bold, sweeping statement, get a good comment-war going, but then can’t back yourself up.

  33. @ Matt – There is a difference between using strong words and an authoritative tone and making a statement as an authority. Any statement, conclusion or argument had better be backed up by solid premises. But anyone can speak with an authoritative voice.

    @ John – Yep, using the audience’s language, using proper punctuation and good grammar and using short, descriptive phrases are a must online.

    @ Kelly – My clients are often surprised at the questions I ask them before writing – and then they realize that, yes, writing takes more than just words.

    @ Reena and Kelly – Thank you for liking my song choice. We’re in the minority :)

    @ Mano – Oh, very nice. I like that. (Why didn’t I think of it? Gah!)

    @ Quiet Rebel and Sandy – Thanks for seeing beyond my song selection to the heart of the matter. As for porn… maybe I’ll save that for my Kid Rock post ;)

  34. James Chartrand – The hills are alive with the ominiscient blogger….
    This blogger fills my ears with EVERYTHING!

    Ah! Sweet rainbows touch my nose kiss of the dew and all good things to you…
    Good night sweet James. Keep filling up the cup.

    I really can’t talk about words. There is nothing to say. It’s like talking about talking about talking…

    Hit the nail on the head. And nothing else.

  35. Great post, James! I think this is the reason why a lot of the successful bloggers I read frequently include supporting images as well as the message they’re trying to get across. Done well, this really adds the WOW factor that keeps me reading them day after day. Not going to comment on the music, as I do believe that’s a bit before my time ;)

  36. I was always creeped out by that. I thought it was a ploy to get someone’s panties off.

    But I was in the minority, I suspect.

    Good write.

  37. I never heard of the rock band Extreme.

  38. @ The Masked Millionaire: Extreme is an American band, they were only really popular during the late 80’s and early 90’s… Basically they’re one of those bands that no one really knows by name, but rather by a song or two that acheived ‘extreme’ popularity :-)
    Gary Cherone was the frontman of the group, he later went on to sing for Van Halen, their third vocalist, and has, more recently, started a ‘The Who’ cover band with his brother….

  39. I agree with you James and I think it’s in this area that we’re most likely to see creativity in the industry, i.e. where the hard sell isn’t apparent.

    What I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on though is, what if it were the actual words that the people have come for i.e. blogs, forums, newsgroups etc, will visual interruptions (display advertising) be accepted then?

  40. nice post :)

  41. Awesome post, thanks for sharing your take on what more than words should be about in a writing context…it is inspirational indeed!

  42. Okay – so no one has even pointed out the beautiful use of words in the “More than Words” lyrics…

    “Saying I love you is not the words I want to hear from you. It’s not that I want you not to say but if you only knew…”

    At that point, if you’re the girl who’s listening, aren’t you just thinking, “Huh?”

    And to think I’m reading a post in praise of this song on copyblogger!

  43. great post, this really hits on exactly what all writing should be about: the person reading it. poets have always worked to bring about emotional responses in their readers — that makes them interacting. even though something is written and done, that doesn’t mean that it’s dead, it’s just as living as anything else, if it’s written properly. ;)

  44. An excellent post, thank you.

  45. “Maybe I’m Amazed” that “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” but somehow, the “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” can oftentimes take you “Higher” … Words that work! Thanks a million, James, I really enjoyed the post.

  46. @ Chuck – That comment should go down in history. Rock on :)