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Writing with Passion: 10 Formulas to ‘Amplify’ Your Words

Aaron Orendorff

Think back to the last time you were genuinely inspired.

Maybe it was a song. Maybe it was a movie. Maybe it was a book, or a podcast, or an idea. Or maybe, it was a product.

Whatever it was, you were struck. Absolutely arrested.

What happened next?

In all likelihood, you took your passion — your beautiful, brimming, exuberant new thing — out from the shadows of your own heart and into the light of another person’s day.

Fully convinced of its self-evident glory, you held that it up. You presented it — “Behold!” — to a friend or a loved one. Or, to the world.

And … it fell flat.

Flat like a ten-year-old catapulting himself off a twenty-foot diving board to impress Ms. Shultz fourth-grade class, belly-flopping at 15 MPH. Flat like an ill-fated raccoon betrayed by its peripheral vision — and a convoy of Amazon Prime lorries hurling toward Christmas.

Flat like would-be pop star undone by reality TV.

Why? Because the truth is we all struggle to communicate our passion.

Nowhere is this struggle more painful than writing, where all our nonverbals — like eye contact, pacing, and body language — are gone.

Add to this trying to communicate passion for a particular product or service and the struggle only increases.

To help, I’ve compiled 10 rhetorical tools known as “amplifications” … 10 proven formulas for writing with passion that don’t rely on bare repetition.

1. The Pile

Technical term: accumulatio (ac cu mu LA ti o)

Gathering together — literally “piling up or heaping” — a series of scattered points, descriptions, or words of praise.

Richard Lanham: “He was a good dog, a loyal buddy, a smart hunter; proud, funny, tough; a brave soldier; though, at times, he begged at the dinner table.”

Your organization, your vigilance, your devotion to duty, your zeal for the cause must be raised to the highest intensity.” Winston Churchill

Natalia Ginzburg:

“I don’t know how to manage my time; he does.

“I don’t know how to dance and he does.

“I don’t know how to type and he does.

“I don’t know how to drive. If I suggest that I should get a license too he disagrees. He says I would never manage it. I think he likes me to be dependent on him for some things.

“I don’t know how to sing and he does.”

From a formulaic copywriting perspective, here’s a template you can easily make your own:

Don’t know how to [fill in the blank]? We do. Don’t know how to [additional challenge]? We do. Don’t know how to [the last most painful difficulty]? We do.

In fact, we’ve done it for [data on success rates or revenue]. And we can do it for you.

2. The Exaggeration

Technical term: hyperbole (he PER bo le)

Exaggerating or overstating something to the point of absurdity or excess.

  • The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.
  • It doesn’t get better than this. (Oscar Meyer)
His name was Skeel.  And he was so strong everyone in the lumberyard called him ‘The Man of Skeel.’ He put the forktrucks on their shelves at night.” Richard Lanham

The exaggeration works best when you’re infusing humor into your copy.

Here’s a great example from DIRECTV:


And another classic from the climax of Old Spices’ series with Kevin Rose:


Lastly, a bit of poetry — for all you lovers out there — by W.H. Auden:

“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet,

“And the river jumps over the mountain,

“And the salmon sing in the street,

“I’ll love you till the ocean

“Is folded and hung up to dry

“And the seven stars go squawking

“Like geese about the sky.”

3. The Impossibles

Technical term: adynata (a DY na ta)

A specific form of hyperbole that lists the impossibilities of a task and is often accompanied by the insinuation that “words are not enough.”

Not if I had all the time in the world and the best poets working at my side could I list all you mean to me.” Emily Dickenson

For copywriting with passion, the best place to use the impossibles is when you’re agitating fear.

You can read more about the “Fear. Agitation. Solution.” formula here. Pay special attention to the “It Gets Worse … Much, Much Worse” portion.

4. The Opener

Technical term: anaphora (a NA pho ra)

The use of the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple sentences.

“You know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression.

“There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being thrown across the abyss of humiliation where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair.

There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July, and left standing amidst the piercing chill of an Alpine November.” Martin Luther King

5. The Closer

Technical term: antistrophe (an TI stro phe).

The use of the same word or phrase at the close of multiple sentences.

Richard Lanham:

“He never stopped running. His foot throbbed, but he never stopped running. He later found out that he had the start of a stress fracture, but he never stopped running.

“He had already technically lost the race, but he never stopped running.”

J. R. R. Tolkien:

“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break the bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day. This day we fight.”

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I understood like a child, I thought like a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” The Bible

6. The Lingering

Technical term: commoratio (com mo RA ti o)

Dwelling on a specific point, repeating it over and over but with different words.

Monty Python:

“This parrot is no more, it has ceased to be, it has expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late parrot; it’s a stiff!

“Bereft of life it rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed its feet to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies! It’s run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible!

“This is an ex-parrot!”

E. B. White:

“On many days, the dampness of the air pervades all life, all living. Matches refuse to strike. The towel, hung to dry, grows wetter by the hour. The newspaper, with its headlines about integration, wilts in your hand and falls limply into the coffee and the egg. Envelopes seal themselves. Postage stamps mate with one another as shamelessly as grasshoppers.”

The lingering works powerfully when highlighting a specific feature of your product or service to draw out all its benefits.

7. The Follow-Up

Technical term: conduplicatio (con du pli CA ti o)

The use of the same word directly following different phrases.

Bill Clinton:

“This afternoon, in this room, I testified before the Office of Independent Council and the Grand Jury. I answered their questions truthfully, including questions about my private life — questions no American citizen would ever want to answer.”

Robert F. Kennedy

“So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King — yeah, it’s true — but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love — a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country.”

8. The Extension

Technical term: extended analogy

A metaphor, simile, or brief story that is carried beyond a sentence or two.

Zhang Jiexuan

“Globalization should not be a huge melting pot into which people of uniqueness go only to come out all the same. It should not be a process in which countries gradually lose their identities.

“To my understanding, globalization should be a grand orchestra—an orchestra in which every player has his particular position and function; an orchestra where the uniqueness of every member is so cherished that everyone’s role is irreplaceable by anyone else; an orchestra based on the joint contribution of every participant, which can and will produce the most beautiful symphony of tomorrow’s peace and prosperity.”

The best rule to follow when using the extension for copywriting with passion is to pick a single running metaphor (sometimes called a “controlling” metaphor) to frame — or weave into — an entire piece.

For more help developing captivating metaphors when copywriting with passion, check out Henneke’s “How to Use the Persuasive Power of Metaphors.”

9. The Negation

Technical term: occupatio (oc cu PA ti o)

Calling attention to something by first saying you’re not going to talk about it.

I will not dwell here on the twenty books and the thirty articles Professor X has written, nor his forty years as Dean, nor his many illustrious pupils, but only say that last year in Africa he killed ten men with his spear.” Richard Lanham

The negation is a compelling way to list the penultimate benefits of a product or service and then turn the focus onto the king benefit. Here’s an example of copywriting with passion using it:

I don’t want to talk about the five hours each week our customers on average save nor the $2,497 they generate each month in passive income.

What I want to talk about is the difference we make in their personal lives.

10. The Multiplier

Technical term: zeugma (ZEUG ma)

Using one word, most often a verb, as the key or hinge upon which multiple words or phrases turn.

Richard Lanham:

“She pierced me with her eyes, with her voice, with her pencil.”

Cicero:

“Lust conquered shame; audacity, fear; madness, reason.”

We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” John F. Kennedy

Francis Bacon:

“Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.”

Using the multiplier for copywriting with passion simplifies your sentence structure and leans on the power of verbs without repeating them.

The Truth About Copywriting with Passion

Passionate copywriting doesn’t come naturally … to any of us.

Overcoming the struggle to spark emotion with your words starts with passion itself. But it doesn’t end there.

To truly create an emotional experience, arm yourself with the 10 amplification formulas above.

Play with them. Make them your own. See what works.

But above all, get started today.

On this front, three brilliant (and, thankfully, free) resources stand out.

First is Jen Havice’s How To Create Customer Personas With Actual, Real Life Data over at ConversionXL. As Havice explains:

Patching together actionable information about your customers with gut feelings, good intentions and some duct tape is not a recipe for conversion success. [P]ersonas are fictional representations of segments of buyers based on real data reflecting their behaviors. Their purpose is to put the people behind company decision making in the shoes of the customer.

Havice them shows how to shape personas through qualitative research.

The breakthrough insight — especially for anyone without a budget for focus groups — comes from her review mining work, which she’s consolidated into a recent book: Finding the Right Message. By all means, buy it. In the meantime, work through the above article as well as How to Boost Conversions with Voice of Customer Research [Case Study] that includes this free template:

Message Mining by Jen Havice via CXL

Review mining to craft copy is one of my own copywriting hallmarks, especially when it comes to landing pages.

You can see how I created this simplified copywriting cheat sheet directly from “feedback and comments on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Amazon, Reddit, app stores, and blogs,” along with what the landing page itself ultimately looked like over at KlientBoost.

Writing Copy from User-Generated Content
Writing copy directly from user-generated content

Second, Demian Farnworth’s Empathy Maps: A Complete Guide to Crawling Inside Your Customer’s Head (via Copyblogger). Empathy consists of two parts:

1. The intellectual identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

2. The vicarious experiencing of those feelings, thoughts, or attitudes.

After a brilliant overview of empathy in marketing — old school and new — Farnworth drops the gold (which you can download as a PDF simply by clicking the image).

Empathy Map
The Empathy Map Lets You Dissect Your Target Market into Four Quadrants on a Person-by-Person Basis

Third, my own The Only Copywriting Formula You’ll Ever Need.

That’s a post all about fear: hands-down the “most primal” human motivator. At the end are thirteen questions to help you haunt your target market (in the best sense possible).

Here’s a quick sampling:

  • What does your audience hate… about their life, about their job, or about your particular type of product or service?
  • What are the real-world consequences of these problems? In other words, how can you quantify, in real numbers, their hates and headaches?
  • What’s the most awkward, confusing, or inconvenient thing about your type of business?
  • What are the two to three biggest barriers to becoming a customer?
  • What nightmare or hell (be as vivid and emotive as possible) does your business save its customers from?

In all those resources, the point is to define your target market as concretely and viscerally as possible.

What are your target market’s mass desires?

Once that group is fixed, the next step is to make a list of all the possible emotions — the raw emotions — that might inspire someone in that specific market to act.

On the negative side, it might be:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Uncertainty
  • Embarrassment
  • Envy
  • Resentment

On the positive side, it might be:

  • Joy
  • Happiness
  • Accomplishment
  • Satisfaction
  • Elation
  • Desire
  • Lust
  • Pride
  • Comfort

After you’ve selected two or three dominant, raw emotions, get specific.

For example, the most dominant human emotion is fear. But nobody (despite FDR’s sound advice) fears fear. What we fear are people, places, things, and events. We fear the future. Or we fear situations that may arise in the future. We fear loss. We fear uncertainty. We fear failure.

On top of that, every market — just like every person — has its own unique list.

Take the real estate market for instance. What do new homebuyers fear most?

Some of the obvious boogiemen are …

  • The fear of being overwhelmed by the process.
  • The fear of being turned down for a loan.
  • The fear of picking the wrong neighborhood.
  • The fear of not having enough money for a down payment.
  • The fear of something better coming along and missing out.

Whatever it is, by selecting one of those fears and placing it front and center in your copy, you “enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind” (Robert Collier).

Actually, what you enter is the conversation already taking place in the customer’s heart.

Either way, the keyword is “customer’s.” Their mind. Their heart.

Mass Desire in Action

To put a little more flesh on this idea, here are some classic examples of wildly successful headlines from Schwartz’s era that tapped into their market’s mass desires:

  • “Hair Coloring So Natural Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure”
  • “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in a Rolls Royce is the electric clock.”
  • “The Skin YOU Love to Touch”
  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
  • “Stops Maddening Itch”
  • “Do YOU make these mistakes in English?”
  • “How a bald-headed barber helped save my hair.”

Today, with advertising exposure rising exponentially, you may think that such straightforward appeals no longer work.

Just to prove they do, here is a handful of my favorite mass desire headlines from the web:

Unbounce: Speed

Sweat Block: Embarrassment

Basecamp: Stress

Mint: Relief

Memit: Simplicity

eHarmony: Winning (and, of course, love)

Blue Apron: Authenticity

Weight Watchers: Release

Designed to Move: Justice

Shopify Plus: Easy

Dapulse: Vanity

Apple Watch: Flexibility

MacBook Pro: Creativity

AirPods: Intrigue

What each of these headlines (classic and contemporary) does beautifully is identify and channel one desire: love, greed, entertainment, the fear of inability, or the fear of difficulty. They use emotive language to capture their audience’s hearts and minds. Emotive language that already exists in the market they’re trying to reach.

To breakthrough, your ads must do the same.

One more law about the word “one”

Having generated a powerhouse list of market-inspired mass desires, your greatest temptation will be to employ them all, like a sort of emotional machine gun.

Don’t.

You only get one.

(Well, you may get to split-test more than one. But each ad only gets one!)

Why?

Because in Schwartz’s words:

Every product appeals to two, three or four of these mass desires.

But only one can predominate; only one can reach out through your headline to your customer. Only one is the key that unlocks the maximum economic power at the particular time your advertisement is published.

Your choice among these alternate desires is the most important step you will take in writing your ad.

If it is wrong, nothing else that you do in the ad will matter.

So remember: Just. One.

2. The Second Law of Writing Copy: State of Awareness

We all know how vital headlines are.

As Brian Clark puts it, “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” That means your headline isn’t just your audience’s first impression … it’s more than likely their only impression.

So here’s the question:

Where do “breakthrough” headlines come from?

You know what I’m talking about. The kind of headlines that pop up, stop your market in their tracks, and compel them to read every word after it.

Now sure, there’re a ton of great cheat sheets out there to get the creative ball rolling. Jon Morrow’s “52 Headline Hacks” is among the best.

The problem is most of us start out wrong because we start with us: our idea, our product, our service, our copy.

But …

What if there was a way to systematically craft breakthrough headlines based entirely on your market?

What if there was a proven formula to pull your prospects into your copy because it actually started with your prospects themselves?

Let’s save the world from bad content