These are my personal book notes on Words That Sell by the author Rick Bayan.

If you’re working with copywriters or professional online marketers, this reference book comes up and gets recommended time and time again.

Let’s take a look…


  • Title: Words That Sell
  • Subtitle: More Than 6,000 Entries To Help You Promote Your Products, Services, And Ideas
  • Author: Richard Bayan
  • Author’s website: The author on LinkedIn
  • First published: 1984
  • Type: non fiction
  • Genre: marketing / copywriting
  • Rating: 5/5
  • Recommended: Yes (Hell, Yeah!)

Table Of Contents Of The Book

  • Preface/Acknowledgments
  • Introduction to the Second Edition
  • How to Use This Book
  • A Crash Course in Copywriting
  • Categories of Copy
  • Part 1 Grabbers
    • Teasers, Free/Prize, Sale/Discount, Trial Offer/No Obligation, Heads and Slogans, Salutations and Invitations, Opening with a Question, Opening with a Statement, Opening with a Challenge, Snappy Transitions, All-Purpose Grabbers
  • Part 2 Descriptions and Benefits
    • Appealing, Authentic, Belonging/Membership, Big/Many, Choice/Control, Comfortable, Competitive, Complete/Thorough, Convenient, Distinguished/Status, Durable/Solid, Easy, Exciting/Stimulating, Experienced/Expert, Fabulous, Fast, Fresh/Wholesome, Fun/Cheerful, Gift, Good-Looking, Healthful, Honest, Improved, Indispensable, Informative, Luxurious, Made, Money-Making, Money-Saving, New/Advanced, Plain/Natural, Pleasure/Satisfaction, Popular, Powerful, Reliable, Results/Performance, Romantic, Security/Peace of Mind, Self-Improvement, Sensory Qualities, Service/Help, Sexy, Small/Less, Sophisticated/Smart, Stylish, Suitable, Superior, Timely, Traditional/Classic, Unusual, Useful/Practical, Valuable
  • Part 3 Clinchers
    • Persuading Your Audience
    • Minimizing Risk
    • The Moment of Decision
    • The Call to Action
    • The P.S.
    • The Lift Note
    • Guarantees
    • Order Information
    • Following Through
  • Part 4 Special Strategies
    • Enhancing Your Company’s Image
    • Justifying a High Price
    • Knocking the Competition
    • Using Demographics to Impress
    • Flattering the Reader
    • Selling Yourself: Personal Traits
    • Selling Yourself: Achievements
    • Selling Your Ideas
  • Appendix
  • “Puffspeak” - And Its Alternative
  • Wordy Expressions
  • Commonly Misspelled Words
  • Commonly Confused Words
  • Further Reading

About The Author, Richard Bayan

Richard Bayan was advertising copy chief at Day-Timers for 14 years.

Previously he served as chief copywriter at Barron’s Educational Series and staff writer for Time-Life Books.

His work has won the John Caples Creative Award, the American Catalog Award, and the Benjamin Franklin Award, among others.

He first broke into print with a series of essays in National Review and later joined the staff of The New American Review.

He is also the author of More Words That Sell, The Best in Medical Advertising and Graphics, The Cynic’s Dictionary, and over 150 online columns and essays.

Mr. Bayan graduated from Rutgers College with a major in history, then earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois.

He currently lives in Philadelphia with his wife and son.

Key Concepts & Ideas

Like magicians with their props or fishermen with their time-tested lures, advertising copywriters rely upon a handy assortment of contrivances for seducing an audience.

A copywriter’s tools are words, and the most effective tools are words that sell.

Infallible adjectives like luxurious _and _irresistible.

Ageless phrases like a lifetime of satisfaction and right at your fingertips.

And, of course, that sturdy old standard, FREE!


Free Download: Copywriting Cheat Sheet (PDF)

This volume represents an attempt to gather the most potent of these words and phrases into a single sourcebook.

To compile this material, I rummaged through mountainous stacks of magazines, newspapers, direct-mail packages, and catalogs.

I kept an ear open for compelling phrases that I heard over the radio and on television.

I checked my e-mail for the occasional gold nugget embedded in the spam.

I raided my own copy files, consulted more than one thesaurus, and, after organizing the entries into lists, added still more words and phrases as they came to mind.

I rejected those entries that seemed to fall flat in print, and I shunned any slogans that were closely identified with specific products.

Think of this book as your personal magic kit - or, if you prefer, a bottomless tackle box filled with glittering lures.

Use it whenever you require inspiration on short notice. Browse through its lists at leisure to expand your repertoire.

With this book at your side, you’ll be able to go straight to the words and phrases that suit your needs.

Instead of groping for words, your mind will be free to focus on the real task of advertising and other promotional writing: shaping a message that generates an enthusiastic response from your audience.

From: How To Use This Book

At some time in your life, you’ve probably used a thesaurus - a reference book filled with lists of synonyms.

Words That Sell is a thesaurus of words and phrases used in advertising and other promotional writing.

As in any standard thesaurus, the entries are organized by topic.

Look up “Stylish,” for example, and you’ll find terms like elegant _and _smashing.

Under “Convenient” you’ll encounter easily accessible and take it anywhere.

But this book departs from the usual thesaurus in several respects:

  • Words That Sell is organized into sections that correspond with the natural progression of sales literature from beginning to end:
    1. GRABBERS: the teasers, headlines, slogans, opening statements, provocative questions, and other attention-getters that pull your audience into your message.
    2. DESCRIPTIONS AND BENEFITS: the words and phrases used to convey the compelling qualities of your product or service. This is by far the largest section of the book, and you’ll probably be spending most of your time here.
    3. CLINCHERS: the persuasive closing statements (including guarantees and ordering information) that can push an undecided reader over the response threshold.
    4. The fourth section, “Special Strategies,” is packed with aggressive words and phrases for specialized purposes, from “Flattering the Reader” to “Selling Your Ideas.”
  • In each of the four main sections, you’ll find lists of words and phrases organized by topic. If you want to convey the idea of “big,” for example, go to the section “Descriptions and Benefits” and find the topic “Big/Many.” There you’ll see a long list of words and phrases that you can use. If you’re looking for an intriguing question to lead off your copy, turn to the section “Grabbers” and find “Opening with a Question.” The table of contents gives you the complete list of sections and topics.
  • The words and phrases under each topic aren’t necessarily synonyms - they’re simply useful expressions gathered in one place to help you express the idea you have in mind. Under “Sensory Qualities,” for example, you’ll come across words as disparate as ripe _and _windswept. Yet you’ll probably notice that similar expressions tend to gravitate together within a given list so that you can find what you need quickly and easily.
  • Many of the phrases contain blanks or trail off in an ellipsis (…). For example: Only _____ gives you …
    Here you’ve been supplied with the pattern for a phrase, which you can easily adapt to your needs by filling in the missing word and extending the phrase as you see fit.

A few words of advice before you start: for best results, familiarize yourself with the four-part format of Words That Sell.

That way you’ll know just where to look for the topics you want.

If one list doesn’t yield a word or phrase that nails your idea, use the cross-references (“For further inspiration, see:”) at the bottom of each list to continue your search elsewhere.

The key word index at the back of the book will help you go to the right place if you can’t find a list that suits your idea. Even this expanded edition of Words That Sell doesn’t pretend to be exhaustive.

In the coming months and years, as in the past, I’m sure I’ll stumble across words and phrases that would have made first-rate entries.

No doubt you will, too.

When you find them, why not write them down under the appropriate topic and expand the collection. In time, my book will become your book - and that’s the way it was meant to be.

From: A Crash Course In Copywriting

An advertising copywriter uses words as tools to persuade and motivate an audience.

You persuade your readers that you have something valuable to offer; you motivate them to acquire it for themselves.

This is the essence of effective advertising, whether you opt for the hard sell or the subliminal suggestion.

The following guidelines, distilled from my own experience and that of other professional copywriters, should help you avoid some of the hobgoblins to which members of our tribe too often fall prey.

At the same time - and with a minimum of trial and error - you’ll gain the perspective you need to start peppering your writing with “words that sell.”

Before You Write

  1. Gain firsthand knowledge of your product or service. Do a little research to get your facts straight. Gather your data from current sources of information (marketing fact sheets, product managers, recent copy). If it’s the kind of product you can hold in your hands (or read or taste or listen to), go right ahead. Live with it for a while and get the feel of it. Then look at your product or service as if you were the consumer. What features and benefits would attract you as a prospective customer?
  2. “Position” your product or service. How is it different from or superior to the competition? Who would use it? How would you define it in a single phrase? Positioning is critical if you want to develop a competitive (and ultimately successful) marketing strategy.
  3. Know your audience. Always gear your copy to the needs and tastes of your customers. Are they mass-market consumers? Upscale young professionals? Hard-boiled professional buyers with a bottom-line mentality? Executives in your field? Find out by checking the demographics of the media in which you’ll be advertising, or (in the case of direct mail) by obtaining a breakdown of your mailing lists.
  4. Plan your copy strategy. Decide how much copy you’ll need to convey the message. As a general rule of thumb (especially in catalogs), the length of your copy should vary in proportion to your company’s investment in the product. But not always. If your product is simple and its virtues self-evident, you don’t have much explaining to do. Other points worth considering: Do you want to develop a running theme that serves as a conceptual focal point for your copy? Do you want to advertise a line of related products? And be sure to coordinate your plans with the designer so that you’re both working with the same concept in mind.

When You Write

  1. Don’t lose sight of your primary goal: to sell your product or service. Your writing should be more than a flat presentation of the facts. (Remember that a copywriter must persuade and motivate.) On the other hand, don’t let runaway creativity bury the message. The most brilliant efforts will be wasted if your audience can’t remember what product you’re pushing. Write to sell.
  2. Stress the benefits. Resist the temptation to thump your chest on behalf of your company. It’s not “See how great we are,” but “See what we can do for you.” Show your potential customers how your product or service will make them happier, wealthier, more comfortable, or more secure. Write with their interests in mind. Once you make the transition from company-centered copy to customer-centered copy, that’s half the battle.
  3. Arouse interest. From the headline to the ordering statements, your copy should continually pique the reader’s curiosity. As you unfold the benefits, keep seasoning your copy with human interest, helpful tips, curious facts, colorful phrases - anything to heighten involvement in your story. And write so that your audience actually looks forward to hearing from you again - an accomplishment that means more in the long run than a one-time sale.
  4. Don’t fill your copy with empty overstatements. Too many words like _fabulous _and _fantastic _within a brief space will destroy your credibility. You don’t want your audience to dismiss you as a propagandist. Instead, try to convince the audience that your product is fabulous. Make them say, “That’s really fantastic!”
  5. Be accurate. Be sure you get the facts straight. Don’t leave yourself open to claims of false advertising by making statements that can’t be substantiated. Above all, be truthful. Resist the temptation to distort the facts in pursuit of an easy sale.
  6. Be specific. Don’t use hazy abstractions or approximations when you have a chance to create vivid images with simple, observable details. Would you rather eat a “frozen dessert” or a “raspberry ice”? And try to avoid the notorious “than what?” comparisons - for example, “lasts longer” (than what?) or “gets the job done faster” (than what?). Do everything you can to sharpen the picture.
  7. Be organized. Your message should progress logically from the headline to the clincher. Don’t bury essential information in the darkest recesses of your copy or lead off with trivia that stops the reader cold. Like an old-fashioned short story, your copy should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  8. Write for easy reading. Your style should suit the audience you’re addressing, but certain rules apply to all copy. Cultivate a style that flows smoothly and rapidly, a style that’s clear, uncluttered, involving, and persuasive. Avoid long, convoluted sentence constructions. Affect a crisp but friendly and extroverted tone. Communicate. You want to do everything possible to ensure that your message gets read.
  9. Appeal to the emotions rather than the intellect. You want your words to propel the reader to action, and nothing is so propulsive as human emotions. A cerebral approach might make your reader nod in admiration, but emotions are the fuel that can blast your message off the ground. Even when you’re writing for an audience of executives or college professors, don’t forget that, like all members of the human tribe, they’re motivated by gut feelings. Keep in mind that some advertising media are intrinsically less emotional than others. A brochure, for example, has to present the hard facts. It typically won’t generate as much emotional heat as a good sales letter. But it should still trigger an emotional response (“I want that!”).
  10. Don’t offend. Humor is a controversial issue among advertising insiders. Most direct-mail experts preach against it, but there’s no denying that humor can be an effective tool - if it suits the subject or the situation. (You don’t want to joke about insurance or funerals.) Sarcasm, cynicism, and other extreme forms of individuality are not likely to meet with mass approval. Don’t criticize your audience’s taste in clothes, music, pets, or anything else. Don’t preach. Be of a sunny disposition, and aim to please.
  11. Make use of testimonials and reviews. Satisfied customers can supply you with some of your most persuasive copy, because their pronouncements invariably come from the heart. These folks have actually tested the product and witnessed the benefits firsthand, and they simply can’t contain their enthusiasm. What better sales weapon could you ask for? Just be sure to obtain their permission first. If you have glowing reviews from publications or esteemed professionals in your field, be sure to quote them and display the blurbs in a prominent spot.
  12. Ask for the customer’s order. This is a sound practice, especially if you want the customer to order! Without a persuasive “call to action” - the brief, high-powered statement that impels prospective customers to buy and tells them how - you let your audience off the hook before you’ve closed the sale. They’ll finish reading your letter or brochure, smile contentedly, and drift back to sleep.
  13. Revise and edit your work. Cut out all dead wood; every word should pull its weight. (Advertising copy is like poetry in this respect.) Be your own critic. Check your facts, your syntax, your spelling. Make sure you haven’t left anything out. Then read your copy again before you submit it.

From: Teasers

  • Free!
  • Absolutely Free!
  • Free Gift
  • Free Gift Enclosed
  • Valuable Gift Enclosed*
  • Your Free _____ Is Enclosed
  • Free Download!
  • Claim Your Free _____
  • Check Enclosed
  • Free Trial
  • No-risk Trial Offer
  • _____-day Free Trial Offer
  • No Obligation Ever!
  • Exclusive Offer
  • Exclusive Offer For _____ Members Only
  • Limited-time Offer
  • Introductory Offer
  • Special Get-acquainted Offer
  • For A Limited Time Only
  • _____ Days Only
  • Dated Material
  • Send No Money
  • Risk-free Opportunity
  • Money-making Opportunity
  • You Have Been Selected To …
  • A _____ Has Been Reserved In Your Name
  • Win …
  • Save …
  • Get a …
  • Bonus offer
  • Rebate offer
  • Urgent*
  • Important
  • Important update
  • Official documents enclosed*
  • Valuable document enclosed*
  • Valuable coupons enclosed
  • Priority mail enclosed*
  • _____ enclosed
  • Enclosed: _____
  • Inside: _____
  • Re: _____
  • Here is the information you requested*
  • Immediate reply requested*
  • Your signature is required*
  • Please respond within _____ days*
  • Sign the enclosed _____ right away
  • Last chance!*
  • Final notice*
  • A personal message from _____
  • An urgent message for _____*
  • Photos inside
  • Please do not bend
  • Do not bend or fold
  • Attention
  • New!
  • New offer
  • Introducing …
  • Announcing …

(the list is incomplete - on purpose - as I can’t give away the whole book here, but I want to give you an idea of what the book is like and why I like it so much… It’s extremely helpful.)

From: All-Purpose Grabbers

  • win
  • free
  • bonus
  • value
  • offer
  • sale
  • save/savings
  • bargain
  • discount
  • now
  • you/your/yours
  • I
  • we
  • only
  • more
  • most
  • big/biggest
  • unlimited
  • extra
  • plus
  • complete
  • totally
  • absolutely
  • best
  • best-selling
  • top-rated
  • famous
  • original
  • genuine
  • proven
  • tested
  • safe
  • successful
  • powerful
  • amazing
  • valuable
  • don’t
  • ever
  • never
  • always
  • please
  • start
  • stop
  • avoid
  • solve
  • make
  • eliminate
  • enjoy
  • get
  • order
  • hurry
  • today
  • new
  • latest
  • exclusive
  • secret
  • tip
  • answer
  • solution
  • breakthrough
  • guarantee
  • easy
  • simple/simply
  • instantly
  • less
  • lowest
  • nothing
  • Our loss is your gain!
  • Now you too can …
  • Now for the first time …
  • By popular demand
  • This is your last chance to …
  • Hurry in for these …
  • Don’t miss …
  • Good news!
  • It’s true!
  • Fact:
  • Amazing _____ breakthrough!
  • Sneak preview!
  • New low price!
  • Ask for your free _____.
  • _____ reasons you should buy …
  • Check these great features:
  • Here’s what you get:
  • The first …
  • The only …
  • At last!

From: Timely

  • prompt
  • punctual
  • quick
  • speedy
  • immediate
  • on time
  • on time, all the time
  • always on time
  • quick turnaround
  • fast results
  • instant _____
  • in seconds
  • in minutes
  • in days
  • in a matter of weeks
  • updated regularly
  • updated every hour/day/week/month
  • always stays current
  • up-to-the-minute
  • stays on top of …
  • keeps pace with …
  • keeps abreast of …
  • never out of date
  • for any occasion
  • whenever you want it
  • whenever and wherever you need it
  • gives you what you want, when you want it
  • what you need, when you need it
  • just when you need it most
  • long-needed
  • long-awaited
  • long overdue
  • a welcome addition to …
  • It’s finally here.
  • Finally, a …
  • At last there’s a …
  • the _____ whose time has come
  • Now’s the time for …
  • There’s never been a better time for …
  • It was only a matter of time.
  • Just when you thought …
  • just in time for _____
  • It’s about time …
  • Isn’t it time …?
  • There’s no time like now.
  • came along at just the right time
  • the first _____ to address the problems of …
  • Our timing couldn’t have been better.
  • Our timing is right on the mark.

Closing Thoughts

This concludes my book notes on Words That Sell by Richard Bayan.

My notes cover only very small parts of the book, so if you like what you read, please consider buying the book from the author.

In my opinion is Words That Sell a must-have reference book for anyone who’s involved in online business, online marketing and sales, affiliate marketing, and (persuasive) email marketing - especially if he/she is not a native English speaker.

I particularly liked the copywriting crash course (see above) and from part 3

  • The Call to Action
  • The P.S. and
  • Guarantees.

These chapters alone are extremely valuable, helpful, and at a minimum worth alone the small price for the book.

Thank you for reading and stay awesome,

Tim for Online Business Dude

PS: Start And Grow Your Own, Profitable Online Business From Scratch, Step-by-Step, Today!

==> Free Download: Online Business Blueprint (PDF)