Some writers, assuming that reasoning alone can sway readers, neglect the power of emotion.
Even the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was no enemy of reason, taught that stimulating emotion in your audience can be the key to persuading them.
Communication, rather than simply inserting information into the audience’s head, is more like striking a tuning fork that resonates within the reader’s mind. Emotion resonates in a way that logic does not.
The following words express powerful, positive emotions:
- amazing—This derives from a Proto-Germanic word “to confound or confuse,” so if you were a Proto-German you might not want to be amazed. Now, amazing has a positive connotation of delight and wonder, though it is often used lightly, even when you’re not paralyzed under a weight of marvelous singularity.
- appealing— Derived from the Latin for “call,” this term—and what it describes—calls to you or attracts you. A convict would appeal to a judge to reconsider his innocence.
- arresting—If you were a fugitive from the criminal justice system, you would avoid anything arresting, which would stop you in your tracks. Sometimes it’s nice to be so overwhelmed by a thought or experience that you don’t even move.
- astonishing—This relates to the modern word stun (as in “stun gun”) and to ancient words for “stupefy, crash, daze, bang.” One synonym is flabbergasting.
- astounding—Closely related to stun, it includes the meanings of dazzling and bewildering. An astounding experience goes beyond mere surprise.
- attractive—As one might expect, one synonym is magnetic—something that allures or draws you by its own intrinsic power. It often describes members of the opposite sex.
- awe-inspiring—This means literally “breathing awe into.” The word awe once meant “overwhelming dread,” and this compound word preserves some of the dictionary connotation of majesty that awesome has lost.
- captivating—Originally it simply meant “making captive,” but like many words in this list, it now has pleasant connotations: being confronted by something so wonderful that you can’t stop thinking about it.
- compelling—When people compel you, they force you to do something. When something is compelling, it forces you to consider it, as in a compelling argument that makes a lot of sense, or a compelling novel that makes you think.
- engaging—From root words for “pledge, promise, secure,” an engaging person or thing makes you want to involve yourself with it and commit yourself to it, similar to the way two people become engaged when they decide to get married. Used in business buzzwords such as “audience engagement” and “product engagement” which involve much less commitment than marriage, though the marketing department might hope otherwise.
- enticing—Meaning “tempting, alluring,” its roots meant “torch, firebrand.” You could use the synonym inveigling, but few would know what you mean, or the archaic synonym illecebrous, and nobody would know what you mean.
- exhilarating—This word exhilarating has the connotation of “invigorating, refreshing, thrilling, exciting.” Unlike awesome, this word has become stronger, not weaker, since the days of Rome. It comes from the Latin roots for “ex-hilarity-ate-ing” so its origin is something like “gladdening,” maybe as in “That thoroughly hilarized me.” That is, it’s related to hilarious, which today means “very funny” but formerly meant “cheerful.”
- fascinating—Another happy word with sinister roots, this comes from the Latin for “bewitch, enthrall, cast a spell upon.” It refers to something you find so interesting that you’re spellbound or trapped (in a good way).
- impressive—Yes, one of its roots is “to press.” An impressive experience makes an unforgettable impression on your mind, as the press at a government mint makes a powerful impression on metal blanks, turning them into coins.
- marvelous—A marvelous sight provokes almost uncontrollable wonder in those who see it. From the Latin for “worthy to be looked at.”
- memorable—Its Latin root originally meant “worthy of mention,” but it soon changed to “worthy of remembering,” as it means now. A synonym is remarkable, which means “worth noting.”
- mind-blowing—Common in the 1960s and used to describe the effect of hallucinogenic drugs, it carries the sense of an experience so intense or unusual that the human mind is overwhelmed by it.
- mind-boggling—First used in the early 1960s, it results in being overwhelmed, dumbfounded, or confused, usually mentally but also emotionally.
- overwhelming—The word whelm means “to capsize, flood, or engulf,” so overwhelm is even stronger. An overwhelming experience is more than one can handle.
- rapturous—It means “blissful, filled with extreme delight.” It comes from a Latin word for “snatched, carried off,” as one might feel during an ecstatic experience. A rapt listener is transported by and absorbed in what he or she is hearing.
- refreshing—Literally “making fresh again,” something revitalizes because of its newness. It comes from ancient European words for “fresh,” as one might expect, but these words also have the sense of “sweet, pure.”
- riveting—A rivet is a metal fastener, so a listener would have trouble separating himself from a riveting conversation, because it holds their attention so strongly.
- staggering—Meaning “reeling, tottering, bewildering.” A drunken man staggers as he walks. Having a truly staggering realization might make it hard to walk straight; it’s so amazing and astonishing that it affects the body.
- stunning—Saying a person has stunning beauty means he or she causes the viewer to lose strength. That’s usually an exaggeration, but the word does imply amazement and high quality. Related to astonishing.
- thrilling—This suggests causing a sudden, intense excitement—even a shaking or vibrating. Sword clashing against sword is thrilling in that sense.
- wondrous—This word is not for ordinary experiences. A wondrous sight is truly amazing, causing deep awe and marvel.
Though these words are all based on emotions, many are verb forms—conveying actions that stimulate emotions and can even change a person’s behavior or attitude.
A version of this post first appeared on Daily Writing Tips.