Impressive Essay Vocabulary List

  • accolade

    a tangible symbol signifying approval or distinction

  • acrimony

    a rough and bitter manner

  • angst

    an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety

  • anomaly

    deviation from the normal or common order or form or rule

  • antidote

    a remedy that stops or controls the effects of a poison

  • avant-garde

    radically new or original

  • baroque

    relating to an elaborately ornamented style of art and music

  • bona fide

    not counterfeit or copied

  • boondoggle

    work of little or no value done merely to look busy

  • bourgeois

    being of the property-owning class

  • bravado

    a swaggering show of courage

  • brogue

    a thick and heavy shoe

  • brusque

    marked by rude or peremptory shortness

  • Byzantine

    of or relating to or characteristic of the Byzantine Empire or the ancient city of Byzantium

  • cacophony

    loud confusing disagreeable sounds

  • camaraderie

    the quality of affording easy familiarity and sociability

  • capricious

    determined by chance or impulse rather than by necessity

  • carte blanche

    complete freedom or authority to act

  • caustic

    capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action

  • charisma

    personal attractiveness that enables you to influence others

  • cloying

    overly sweet

  • deja vu

    the experience of thinking a new situation already occurred

  • dichotomy

    a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses

  • dilettante

    an amateur engaging in an activity without serious intention

  • disheveled

    in disarray; extremely disorderly

  • elan

    enthusiastic and assured vigor and liveliness

  • ennui

    the feeling of being bored by something tedious

  • epitome

    a standard or typical example

  • equanimity

    steadiness of mind under stress

  • equivocate

    be deliberately ambiguous or unclear

  • esoteric

    understandable only by an enlightened inner circle

  • euphemism

    an inoffensive expression substituted for an offensive one

  • fait accompli

    an irreversible accomplishment

  • fastidious

    giving careful attention to detail

  • faux pas

    a socially awkward or tactless act

  • fiasco

    a complete failure or collapse

  • finagle

    achieve something by means of trickery or devious methods

  • Freudian slip

    a slip-up that (according to Sigmund Freud) results from the operation of unconscious wishes or conflicts and can reveal unconscious processes in normal healthy individuals

  • glib

    artfully persuasive in speech

  • gregarious

    temperamentally seeking and enjoying the company of others

  • harbinger

    something indicating the approach of something or someone

  • hedonist

    someone motivated by desires for sensual pleasures

  • heresy

    a belief that rejects the orthodox tenets of a religion

  • idiosyncratic

    peculiar to the individual

  • idyllic

    charmingly simple and serene

  • indelicate

    slightly indecent, offensive, or improper

  • infinitesimal

    immeasurably small

  • insidious

    working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way

  • junket

    dessert made of sweetened milk coagulated with rennet

  • kitsch

    excessively garish or sentimental art

  • litany

    any long and tedious address or recital

  • lurid

    glaringly vivid and graphic; marked by sensationalism

  • Machiavellian

    of or relating to amoral or conniving political principles

  • malaise

    a general feeling of discomfort, uneasiness, or depression

  • malinger

    avoid responsibilities and duties

  • mantra

    literally a `sacred utterance' in Vedism

  • maudlin

    effusively or insincerely emotional

  • mercenary

    a person hired to fight for another country than their own

  • minimalist

    a conservative advocating only minor reforms in government

  • misnomer

    an incorrect or unsuitable name

  • narcissist

    someone who is excessively self-centered

  • nirvana

    the beatitude that transcends the cycle of reincarnation

  • non sequitur

    a reply that has no relevance to what preceded it

  • nouveau-riche

    characteristic of someone who has risen economically or socially but lacks the social skills appropriate for this new position

  • oblivion

    the state of being disregarded or forgotten

  • ogle

    look at with amorous intentions

  • ostentatious

    intended to attract notice and impress others

  • ostracize

    expel from a community or group

  • panacea

    hypothetical remedy for all ills or diseases

  • paradox

    a statement that contradicts itself

  • peevish

    easily irritated or annoyed

  • perfunctory

    hasty and without attention to detail; not thorough

  • philistine

    a person who is uninterested in intellectual pursuits

  • precocious

    characterized by exceptionally early development

  • propriety

    correct behavior

  • quid pro quo

    something for something

  • quintessential

    representing the perfect example of a class or quality

  • red herring

    diversion intended to distract attention from the main issue

  • revel

    take delight in

  • rhetoric

    study of the technique for using language effectively

  • scintillating

    having brief brilliant points or flashes of light

  • spartan

    unsparing and uncompromising in discipline or judgment

  • stigma

    a symbol of disgrace or infamy

  • stoic

    seeming unaffected by pleasure or pain; impassive

  • suave

    having a sophisticated charm

  • Svengali

    someone (usually maleficent) who tries to persuade or force another person to do his bidding

  • sycophant

    a person who tries to please someone to gain an advantage

  • teetotaler

    a total abstainer

  • tete-a-tete

    a private conversation between two people

  • tirade

    a speech of violent denunciation

  • tryst

    a secret rendezvous, especially between lovers

  • ubiquitous

    being present everywhere at once

  • unrequited

    not returned in kind

  • untenable

    incapable of being defended or justified

  • vicarious

    experienced at secondhand

  • vile

    morally reprehensible

  • waft

    a long flag; often tapering

  • white elephant

    a valuable possession whose upkeep is excessively expensive

  • zealous

    marked by active interest and enthusiasm

  • Ever noticed how some writers have an uncanny ability to toy with your emotions?

    Within the span of a few pages, you can go from shaking with excitement to bawling your eyes out to flying into a rage and throwing the book across the room. It’s the hallmark of great writing, proof of mastery of the craft, and the yardstick by which aspiring writers measure their work.

    And it goes beyond storytelling.

    Sure, taking the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride is essential in novels and short stories, but what about emails, resumes, blog posts, proposals? They’re all designed to influence the reader in some way. You want to pass along information, yes, but you also want the reader to feel a certain way about that information.

    Maybe you want to impress them, get them excited, make them cautious, get them angry, encourage them to keep going, or any number of emotions. The better a job you do at making them feel, the more influential you are, and the better your chances of getting what you want.

    So, you might wonder… how?

    The world is full of people who can scribble down their ideas, but to bring those ideas to life, to make them take up residence in the mind of the reader, lurking in the background, tugging, pulling, and cajoling their emotions until they think and feel exactly as you want? That’s a rare skill indeed.

    The good news is it can be yours. There’s even a shortcut.

    How to Instantly Become a Better Writer

    It’s simple:

    Use power words.

    Rather than describe what I mean, let’s deconstruct an example from the great Winston Churchill:

    We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

    Inspiring, right?

    Well, there was a lot on the line. Under attack from Germany, Britain was fighting for its survival, and somehow, someway, Churchill had to find a way to inspire his countrymen to greatness.

    He chose words. Or, to be more accurate, power words.

    Let’s take a look at the passage again, this time with all the power words underlined:

    We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstroustyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

    Each underlined word makes the audience feel something. In this case, Churchill intermixes words that cause fear, such as “struggle,” “tyranny,” and “terror,” with words that cause hope, such as “strength,” “God,” and “victory.” The last, in particular, is repeated over and over, practically drilling the emotion into the minds of the audience.

    It’s no accident. Smart speakers, as well as their speechwriters, sprinkle their speeches with carefully-chosen power words, drawing the audience from one emotion to another as skillfully as any novelist or screenwriter.

    Granted, that’s not all they do. The best writers use an entire tool chest of techniques to create emotion, and power words are only one such tool.

    But there’s good news.

    For beginning writers, power words are one of the easiest tools to master. Unlike many storytelling strategies which can take years of practice to master, you can start sprinkling power words into your writing, and you’ll notice an immediate lift in the quality of your prose.

    All you lack is a list of power words to use, but of course, I have you covered there too. 🙂

    317 Power Words to Start Using Immediately

    For years now, every time I mentioned power words to my students, someone always asked:

    “Where can I get a list? Is there a book I can buy?”

    Sadly, not that I’m aware of.  That’s why I created this list.

    Slowly, over a period of several weeks, I catalogued all the power words that jumped out to me, organizing them into categories based on the emotion you want to create, so you can easily find the right word. In the future, I’ll also update the list, adding new words on a regular basis to make it the most comprehensive list of power words available anywhere.

    It costs nothing. All I ask in return is you share it with your friends and readers when appropriate, helping it reach the people who need it most.

    Enjoy.

    Want a handy PDF containing all 317 Power Words (plus 50 exclusive bonus words) to download and keep? Get it Here.

    Calling All Fearmongers

    Let’s do a little experiment.

    Just for a moment, stop reading this post, turn on the television, and go to a major news channel. Watch it for five minutes, listening for the words below.

    Chances are, you’ll hear dozens of them. Here’s why:

    Fear is without a doubt the most powerful emotion for grabbing and keeping an audience’s attention. To make sure you don’t change the channel, news networks load up with fear words, making you worry you might miss something important.

    It’s effective. Granted, you can overdo it, but in my opinion, most writers don’t use these types of words nearly enough. They really do connect with people.

    Here’s a bunch to get you started:

    Agony
    Apocalypse
    Armageddon
    Assault
    Backlash
    Beating
    Beware
    Blinded
    Blood
    Bloodbath
    Bloodcurdling
    Bloody
    Bomb
    Buffoon
    Bumbling
    Cadaver
    Catastrophe
    Caution
    Collapse
    Corpse
    Crazy
    Cripple
    Crisis
    Danger
    Deadly
    Death
    Destroy
    Devastating
    Disastrous
    Drowning
    Dumb
    Embarrass
    Fail
    Feeble
    Fired
    Fool

    Fooled
    Frantic
    Frightening
    Gambling
    Gullible
    Hack
    Hazardous
    Hoax
    Holocaust
    Horrific
    Hurricane
    Insidious
    Invasion
    IRS
    Jail
    Jeopardy
    Lawsuit
    Looming
    Lunatic
    Lurking
    Meltdown
    Mired
    Mistake
    Murder
    Nightmare
    Painful
    Pale
    Panic
    Peril
    Piranha
    Pitfall
    Plague
    Played
    Plummet
    Plunge
    Poison

    Pummel
    Poor
    Prison
    Pus
    Reckoning
    Refugee
    Revenge
    Risky
    Scary
    Scream
    Searing
    Shatter
    Shellacking
    Silly
    Slaughter
    Slave
    Smash
    Strangle
    Stupid
    Suck
    Tailspin
    Tank
    Targeted
    Teetering
    Terror
    Terrorist
    Toxic
    Trap
    Vaporize
    Victim
    Volatile
    Vulnerable
    Warning
    Worry
    Wounded

    Give Your Readers a Pep Talk

    Let’s face it.

    When they’re reading, most people aren’t exactly bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm. They’re probably bored, maybe a little depressed, and almost definitely tired. And they’re looking for something, anything, that’ll wake them up and make them feel better.

    The good news?

    Your writing can do that for them. Use these power words to give them a pep talk and get them charged up again:

    Amazing
    Audacity
    Backbone
    Belief
    Blissful
    Bravery
    Breathtaking
    Cheer
    Conquer
    Courage
    Daring
    Defiance
    Delight
    Devoted
    Excited

    Eye-opening
    Faith
    Fearless
    Fulfill
    Grateful
    Grit
    Guts
    Happy
    Heart
    Hero
    Hope
    Jaw-dropping
    Jubilant
    Magic
    Mind-blowing

    Miracle
    Pluck
    Sensational
    Spectacular
    Spine
    Spirit
    Staggering
    Stunning
    Surprising
    Triumph
    Uplifting
    Valor
    Victory
    Wonderful
    Wondrous

    Take a Page from Cosmopolitan (or Playboy)

    Like it or not, lust is one of the core human emotions.

    Just look at the men’s and women’s magazines in the checkout aisle, and you’ll see what I mean. Nearly every headline on the cover is either blatantly or indirectly about sex.

    And it works, not just for men’s and women’s magazines, but for anything. As a writer, you can use words that inspire lust to make almost anything intriguing.

    For example: take a look at these two posts I wrote for Copyblogger:

    Sex, Lies, and the Art of Commanding Attention

    Copyblogger Editor Admits to Sleeping with Readers and Recommends You Do the Same

    Both posts use the power of lust to teach people about headlines, of all things. Proof positive that it can be used for anything.

    Here’s a lascivious list to get you started:

    Brazen
    Crave
    Depraved
    Dirty
    Exposed
    Forbidden
    Hypnotic
    Lascivious
    Lick
    Lonely

    Lust
    Naked
    Naughty
    Provocative
    Scandalous
    Sensual
    Sex
    Shameless
    Sinful
    Sleazy

    Sleeping
    Spank
    Steamy
    Sweaty
    Tantalizing
    Tawdry
    Thrilling
    Uncensored
    Wanton
    Whip

    Start a Riot

    As writers, sometimes our job is to anger people.

    Not for the fun of it, mind you, but because someone is doing something wrong, and the community needs to take action to correct it. The problem is, with wrongdoing, most people are pretty apathetic – they’ll wait until the situation becomes entirely intolerable to do anything, and by then, it’s often too late.

    So, we have to fan the flames. By using the below power words, you can connect with people’s anger, and slowly but surely, you can work them into a frenzy. Just be careful who you target. Lawyers can eat you alive if you pick on the wrong person. 🙂

    Abuse
    Arrogant
    Ass kicking
    Backstabbing
    Beat down
    Bullshit
    Bully
    Coward
    Crooked
    Crush
    Disgusting
    Evil
    Force-fed

    Foul
    Hate
    Know it all
    Lies
    Loathsome
    Loser
    Lying
    Maul
    Money-grubbing
    Nazi
    No Good
    Obnoxious
    Payback

    Pound
    Preposterous
    Punish
    Revolting
    Ruthless
    Sick and Tired
    Smug
    Sniveling
    Snob
    Snooty
    Snotty
    Stuck up
    Underhanded

    Stomp on Their Greed Glands

    The legendary copywriter Gary Halbert once said, “If you want people to buy something, stomp on their greed glands until they bleed.” Graphic, yes, but also true.

    Skim through good sales copy, and you’ll find a lot of these power words. Many of them are so overused they’ve become cliché, but that doesn’t stop them from working.

    The truth is, nearly every human being on the planet is interested in either making or saving money. Use these words to tap into those desires:

    Bargain
    Best
    Billion
    Bonanza
    Cash
    Cheap
    Discount
    Dollar
    Double
    Explode
    Extra
    Feast
    Fortune
    Free

    Freebie
    Frenzy
    Frugal
    Gift
    Greatest
    Inexpensive
    Jackpot
    Luxurious
    Marked down
    Massive
    Money
    Nest egg
    Pay zero
    Prize

    Profit
    Quadruple
    Reduced
    Rich
    Savings
    Six-figure
    Skyrocket
    Soaring
    Surge
    Treasure
    Triple
    Whopping

    Make Them Feel Safe

    Greed isn’t the only emotion you want buyers to feel. You also want to make them feel safe.

    They need to trust both you and your product or service. They need to have confidence you’ll deliver. They need to believe they’ll get results.

    Of course, building that kind of trust starts with having a quality brand and reputation, but the words you use to describe yourself and your product or service also matter. To help your customers feel safe, try to use as many of these power words as possible:

    Anonymous
    Authentic
    Backed
    Best-selling
    Cancel Anytime
    Certified
    Endorsed
    Guaranteed
    Ironclad
    Lifetime

    Moneyback
    No Obligation
    No Questions Asked
    No Risk
    No Strings Attached
    Official
    Privacy
    Protected
    Proven
    Recession-proof

    Refund
    Research
    Results
    Secure
    Tested
    Try before You Buy
    Verify
    Unconditional

    Offer Them a Forbidden Fruit

    Remember when you were a kid, and someone told you NOT to do something? From that point on, you could think about little else, right?

    The truth is, we’re all fascinated by the mysterious and forbidden. It’s like it’s programmed into our very nature.

    So why not tap into that programming?

    Whenever you need to create curiosity, sprinkle these power words throughout your writing, and readers won’t be able to help being intrigued:

    Backdoor
    Banned
    Behind the Scenes
    Black Market
    Blacklisted
    Bootleg
    Censored
    Concealed
    Confessions

    Confidential
    Controversial
    Covert
    Cover-up
    Forbidden
    Forgotten
    Hidden
    Illegal
    Insider

    Lost
    Off-limits
    Outlawed
    Private
    Secrets
    Smuggled
    Strange
    Unauthorized
    Withheld

    Want a handy PDF containing all 317 Power Words (plus 50 exclusive bonus words) to download and keep? Get it Here.

    Go Ahead and Tell Me. What Words Did I Miss?

    Yes, this is an enormous list, but so many power words are available, nobody can possibly catch them all on the first pass. What are some other words that seem to have that extra little spark of emotion inside them?

    Leave your answer in the comments, and as time goes by, I’ll come back periodically and update the list. Eventually, I hope to have over 1,000 words here, separated and organized by category, making this the definitive resource for power words on the web.

    Thanks in advance for commenting and sharing the post with your friends!

    About the Author: Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Smart Blogger. Poor man. 🙂

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