Words are Sharks and Clown Fish and Stingrays, (oh my!)

Diving mask with fins and coconut on a tropical beach-metaphor for diving into a sea of keywords, calls to action, and colorful languageAlmost two years ago, I wrote a post about “powerful words.” The problem with that post? I talk about verbs and adjectives– action versus description, but I offer no examples–I frustrated even myself. What inspired the look back, though, is the number of visitors I get to this blog searching for “words with powerful meaning” and “small words with big meaning.” I have to conclude, based on data and traffic stats, that these are some elusive prey.

Now, two years later, I’m sharing some lists of “small words with big and powerful meaning.”  Powerful words swim all around us like sharks and beautiful tropical fish. We live on a veritable REEF that teems with words-with-powerful-meaning.

Get your goggles, your fins, and your snorkel and follow me— (imagine the Caribbean, 80-ish degree water, clear, emerald green, blue skies, warm sun….)

1. Many of the following make great calls to action when installed properly:

  • Call
  • Enroll
  • Find
  • Learn
  • Submit
  • Sign up
  • Join
  • Apply
  • Watch
  • Listen
  • Request
  • Book now
  • Discover
  • Watch
  • Subscribe
  • Explore
  • Act
  • Read
  • Access
  • Create
  • Eliminate
  • Dominate
  • Choose
  • Attract
  • Achieve
  • Harness
  • Improve
  • Generate

(…dozens more. )

2. Selection below: short (small) action words, that also pack sound and visuals: “small powerful words.” But they are hardly “small”:

  • Push
  • Pull
  • Poke
  • Smack
  • Grab
  • Punch
  • Piss-off
  • Bark
  • Bite
  • Yank
  • Bang
  • Tug
  • Slap
  • Stab
  • Slash
  • Slice
  • Dice
  • Splice
  • Twist

(…dozens more….)

3. Below: words that sound like sounds…onomatopoeia:

  • Plop
  • Fizz
  • Burp
  • Buzz
  • Grind
  • Snap
  • Crackle
  • Pop
  • Pow
  • Puff
  • Chop
  • Hiss
  • Slurp
  • Ping
  • Zing

4. Colorful turns of phrase–often used to punch up marketing and sales copy– they can be very effective at bringing otherwise bland web copy to life.

  • Mission critical
  • Ante-up
  • Field-tested
  • Precision-tuned
  • Tried and true
  • Put through the paces
  • Take the heat
  • Loaded for bear
  • Shoot from the hip
  • Bring the heat
  • Packed to the gills
  • Triple threat
  • Armed to the teeth
  • Hardscrabble
  • Nitty gritty
  • Brass tacks
  • Down in the dirt

Where did I get all these words? I collect them in a magnificent  spreadsheet. I am highly skeptical of things anyone calls “secret,” but this spreadsheet is my secret weapon. At any moment I can see: high volume keywords for various markets I’m interested in, calls to action, verbs, phrases, slang, metaphors. It has paid off time and time again. And I recommend the practice.

Friday creative outburst..

Almost before it was out of his mouth, she hauled back her fist and kapow! He reeled, stunned. When he stood back upright he had his broken jaw cradled with his hand, like a porcelain saucer with its delicate cup. “My, you’ve got pluck,” he mumbled. It sounded otherwise, but she knew what he meant.

, , , , , ,


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.


  1. “Small” Words, Powerful Meaning « Word Bang - 16 April, 2011

    […] Update: I’ve followed up this bare bones post with another that gives readers 4 go-to lists of powerful and short/small words. If you’re looking for 1. calls-to-action, 2. small but powerful take action words, 3. words that sound like sounds, or 4. colorful turns of phrase that will surely punch up any lackluster copy,  then hop on over to my post called Words are Sharks and Clownfish and Stingrays (oh my!) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: