What Are Trigger Words? (And How to Use Them in Writing)

Trigger words are a common marketing tool used in business copywriting. In this post, we’ll explain what trigger words are and share our top tips to help you edit them in your clients’ writing.

What Are Trigger Words?

Trigger words (or power words) are words or phrases that compel the reader to take an action, or what’s called a conversion in the marketing world. They’re most often found in business writing to encourage behavior like clicking a link, buying a product, or signing up for an email list.

To provoke the desired response, trigger words rely on connecting with the audience’s emotions. This might involve:

  • Inspiring urgency and a fear of missing out (e.g., “hurry,” “sale ends soon,” “last chance,” “exclusive offer,” “while stocks last,” “must have”)
  • Emphasizing luxury (e.g., “stunning,” “rare find,” “desirable,” “beautiful,” “one-of-a-kind”)
  • Encouraging curiosity (e.g., “find out,” “discover,” “secret,” “unbelievable,” “little-known,” “bizarre”)
  • Proposing solutions to a problem (e.g., “no more hassle,” “easy to use,” “fail-proof,” “how to,” “10 easy steps,” “boost,” “say goodbye to,” “prevent”)
  • Positioning the author as an expert (e.g., “comprehensive,” “reliable,” “trustworthy,” “world-renowned,” “professional,” “proven”)

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. You can find corresponding trigger words to any emotion an author is trying to appeal to.

Editing Trigger Words

As an editor, it’s important for you to be aware of trigger words and how to edit them. This is especially true if you work with business and marketing copy. With that in mind, here are some tips on helping your client enhance their writing with trigger words.

1. Placement of Trigger Words

Trigger words need to be in the right place to work effectively. In marketing copy, you’ll most often come across trigger words in headings:

Top 10 Cleaning Hacks to Get Your Bathroom Sparkling

Say Goodbye to Monday Blues: 3 Fun Tricks to Cheer Up Your Office

How to Create Amazing Jewelry Your Friends Will Love

When used here, trigger words are designed to prompt the reader to click through, continue reading, and share the content with others.

There may be powerful words in the main content itself, but if your client hasn’t used trigger words in their headings, readers are less likely to take interest in the content and follow through on the desired action. If this is the case, you might suggest adding a trigger word or two to the heading:

How to Write a Book Fast ✘

How to Pen a Literary Masterpiece in Just 5 Steps

Other appropriate places for trigger words include:

  • Subheadings
  • Pop-ups
  • Landing pages
  • Product descriptions
  • Buttons
  • Email subjects
  • Calls to action

Pay close attention to these aspects of your client’s writing to make sure their trigger words have been used to their full potential.

2. Suitability of Trigger Words

While trigger words should appeal to our emotions, they need to suite the content in which they appear and the intended audience. They should also be appropriate to the feeling your client wants to evoke. If your client is writing about a limited-time deal, a trigger phrase like “sit back and relax” would be at odds with the intended sense of urgency.

In a similar vein, trigger words shouldn’t push an emotion too far. For example, while it’s fine to use trigger words that inspire anger, like “outrageous” or “sick and tired,” your client shouldn’t cross the line into overtly aggressive or confrontational language.

As an editor, it’s your job to ensure that your client has used suitable and appropriate words in their writing and to suggest alternatives when necessary.

3. Frequency of Trigger Words

Finally, it’s important not to overuse trigger words. For one thing, readers will notice if a piece of writing contains too many trigger words, as it will sound stilted and unnatural and could be interpreted as clickbait.

What’s more, overusing trigger words can confuse the action your client wants the reader to take. Take a look at this subheading:

Last chance to win our amazingly cheap luxury cruise tickets! This exclusive deal is nation-wide and it’s selling out fast!

There are multiple conflicting trigger words here. Is the cruise a luxury vacation or a cheap deal? Is the reader going to win tickets, or do they need to buy them? Is the offer exclusive or open to everyone? There’s no clear emotion for the reader to act on.

So, while trigger words are an essential marketing technique, you’ll need to ensure your client has used them sparingly to make the most of them.

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