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Magic Words

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Magic Words

What to Say to Get Your Way


15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Infuse your language with power and punch by incorporating six types of “magic” words into your communications.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Applicable
  • Well Structured


Words are the building blocks of all communication, yet people seldom consider the degree to which their choice of words can change the effect and efficacy of a message. Jonah Berger, a language processing expert, uses new tools such as automated text analysis to explain how you can influence, persuade, engage or even write a chart hit simply by substituting one word or phrase for another. He identifies six categories of “magic” words that will boost your communication prowess – helping you better motivate teammates, strengthen relationships and even get five-year-olds to put their toys away.


Words are the often-overlooked building blocks of human communication.

Humans rely on words to communicate and engage with other people. Words are also the elementary units of your innermost thoughts. But while people use language every day in almost everything they do, they rarely think about how some words make more of an impression than others. For example, research shows that adding the word “because” to a request increases the likelihood of fulfillment by as much as 50%. Some 32% more people respond to a suggestion when you use “recommend” instead of “like,” and when men include the word “whom” on a matchmaking site, they’re 31% more likely to get a date.

“Magic words” that engage, persuade, convince and influence fall into six categories: “the language of identity and agency, the language of confidence, the language of questions, the language of concreteness, the language of emotion” and “the language of similarity (or difference).”

Increase feelings of empowerment by harnessing language that “activates identity and agency.”

Researchers at Bing, Stanford University’s lab nursery school, found that four- and...

About the Author

Jonah Berger is the author of Contagious, Invisible Influence and The Catalyst. He is a professor of marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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