Emotional Trigger Words
to Use in Sales Copy

Frustrated and frozen: The two words that best describe my New Year’s Eve experience.

Frustrated because the venue that held the party to ring in the New Year made getting tickets to the event difficult. In fact, looking through their website, you’d be hard-pressed to discover the place was hosting an event.

There wasn’t much copy dedicated to the event. And what little copy that existed was hard to find because you had to navigate several pages to find it. And all the copy was darn near the bottom of the page. (A good example of a company in need of a website audit. Here’s how you do that.)

So we wound up purchasing tickets the old-fashioned way … by phone. But even that took at least three separate phone calls before finally connecting with someone in the Events Department.

At this point, most people would have given up all together. And normally, my husband and I would have done the same except we had promised my brother and his fiancée we’d be there.

Plus, too many years have passed where staying home to celebrate the New Year had become our normal routine. It was time for something different.

As for frozen … well, the party was inside a huge event tent, the kind used for outdoor weddings. It was nicely decorated, with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Long white drapes covered the sides. Black-and-white striped tablecloths covered each table, along with a New Year’s Eve themed centerpiece.

There were heaters throughout, even several near the entrance. In milder winters, that would have been sufficient. But this year, the temperature dropped to six degrees. No matter how many heaters were in place, it just wasn’t warm enough.

I wound up wearing my winter coat and gloves most of the night. I wasn’t alone — most everyone did the same.

The reason I’m sharing my New Year’s Eve with you, Dear Copywriter, is not to complain or seek pity, but rather to share with you emotional trigger words to use in your sales copy.

The copywriting legend who is most known for using trigger words is Robert Collier. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and as an adult, he got a gig with his uncle at his publication, Collier’s Weekly.

But he’s probably best known for his 1926 book, The Secret of the Ages. The book sold more than 300,000 copies during his lifetime. The trigger words that best describe his work are abundance, desire, faith, and becoming your best.

But that’s not all. Because he was a gifted copywriter, he sold millions of dollars’ worth of other books, like H.G. Well’s four-volume Outline of History. Here’s how he sums up the secret to his copywriting success:

Before you put pen to paper, before you ring for your stenographer, decide in your own mind what effect you want to produce on your reader — what feeling you must arouse in him.
~ Robert Collier

Since we know people buy with emotions, it make sense to use emotional trigger words that best convey those emotions in your copy. And why not make that job a little easier by having a list of trigger words to pick from?

I agree, which is why I’m going to share a few powerful ones with you now.

Let’s start with the word forbidden. We’re naturally drawn to things we can’t have. When your copy offers a solution for getting those things, it draws readers into your copy. Other words that share the power of forbidden include: banned, controversial, exposed, insider, and taboo.

Powerlessness is frustration taken to the extreme. In sales copy, when you empower your reader, the product or service you are selling becomes the hero. When that happens, your reader is more inclined to hit the buy button. Other words that create a similar emotion are agony, floundering, helpless, paralyzed, and surrender.

A sense of urgency is an emotional response that can range from fear of loss to extreme enthusiasm. That’s the feeling you’ve got to create in the close portion of your letter. To do that, you can use words such as before you forget, deadline, time to act, don’t wait any longer, and limited.

Revenge is the desire that results from betrayal. The reason it’s powerful is because it connotes action. In sales copy, the action you want people to take is more along the lines of overcoming revenge, or living well is the best revenge.

In other words, you want to channel that feeling in a positive way, not destructive behavior. You could also use words such as avenge, payback, reclaim, turn the tables, and vindication.

This list is not complete by any means. To do the list justice, this article would be pages long … more like a book. Besides, AWAI has plenty of resources available that cover this subject in more detail.

For now, your job, Dear Copywriter, is to ensure you are using emotional trigger words in your sales letter.

Your takeaway: Appealing to your prospect’s emotions is a matter of picking the right words to describe those emotions. Use this list to get started.

By the way, I should mention that the evening was not a complete disaster. Being the ‘good sports’ type of people we are, we made the most of the event. The food was delicious. The drinks were plentiful. And we danced most of the night.

So I would be remiss if I didn’t add one more word to describe the evening: Fun.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
Average: 3.5
Published: January 15, 2018

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)