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How to Eliminate "Wallet Closing Words" From Your Emails, Sales Pages, and Speech
Last Updated July 31st, 2012

There are words that REPEL your customers…

Words that stop them—dead in their tracks—from buying whatever it is you’re selling.

Words that are so prevalent that you’ll be SHOCKED to hear that they’re HORRIBLE when it comes to communicating with your prospects and customers.

But today, on Social Triggers Insider, you’ll see what those words are, and MORE.

So grab a pen and paper and listen to the latest episode of Social Triggers Insider.

The Psychology of Language (with Michael Fishman)

In the below discussion, Michael Fishman and I talk about:

  • How Your Words Shape The Perception Of Your Products and Services
  • How to Eliminate Wallet Closing Words from Your Writing
  • Why 100% Comprehension Is Vital For Businesses Communication
  • The 4Cs of Crafting Language That WOWS Your Customers

That said, press play!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Did you know Social Triggers Insider is now on iTunes? If you enjoy this series, please take a few seconds and leave an honest review. I’m so close to 100 reviews, and I need your help to get there

After you’re done listening to this discussion, I want you to share “one” thing you learned… and how you plan to apply it to your business… in the comment section.

Why? Because I want you to commit to growing your business, and I believe your comment will keep you accountable.

Want to know what my key takeaway was? It’s this:

Writing tip: “Don’t think OF the market. Think AS the market.” – @michaelfishman – Click to Tweet

Right click this link to save the audio as a MP3 file to your computer

The transcript is currently unavailable. Check back in a few days

Want to learn more about Michael Fishman?

For over 20 years, Michael Fishman has been the leading advisor on marketing, positioning and strategy setting in the health, wellness and personal development categories.

He has been instrumental in growing to category leadership such businesses as Rodale, Inc., with the Prevention and Men’s Health publishing brands, and has worked on products and/or collaborated with such admired personalities as Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Dean Ornish and many others.

Currently, among his equity roles are The Future of Health Now, an online health information community, and SpendLessTV.com, which for 3 years has been serving consumers with video and blog content to help them live abundant lives.

Michael leads the annual Consumer Health Summit, the preeminent invitational forum for CEOs, entrepreneurs and marketing leaders which he created in 1994. He is also a frequent and well-received speaker who shares how marketing language, customer care and work culture combine to take companies from merely good to the beloved best at what they do.

Now It’s Up to You…

What’s the ONE thing you learned from this discussion?

And how do you plan on using it to your advantage?

Leave a comment.

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132 comments Leave a comment

Fantastic interview with Michael Fishman. Thank you very much!

James Helmering

I heard you say how important testimonials are. What do you put in the place of testimonials when you have a new product? You don’t want to lie to your readers. So what is the best solution?


In the Wallet Closing words, you’re talking about choice of words for COPY.

You’re talking about a general audience (8th grade comprehension).

Okay – talk to your kids and see if they dig it. You’ll need a whole classroom cause they only like cartoons.

100% identical comprehension applies more to CONTEXT, than specific WORDS. JARGON has to be either satirical or VERY SPECIFIC and GENERAL – like “OMG!” – or a brand GUESS or DKNY or a STOCK TICKER or REPORT type.

THEY FEEL UNDERSTOOD BY YOU involves this language use – which may be jargon – experts use jargon – they don’t teach well, but people learn more from them because THEY are expert students.

I’m outa here.

Kristen Poborsky

Great podcast Derek! I am in the middle of repositioning myself and my business so Michael’s quote “Don’t think OF the market. Think AS the market” really hit home with me.

I know I have heard it many times before that I need to write conversationally to my audience but there was something in your conversation with Michael that really helped me to “get it” this time!

Brenda Araujo

Thank you so much Derek and Michael-fantastic interview!

I especially loved the part about writing a diary entry as if you were the customer or prospect. It really allows you to tap into your market’s psyche-brilliant.

“will say’, “won’t say”, and “can’t say” was great insight, too.

However, I’m afraid I’ve screwed myself because my current tagline is ‘Learn, Invest, & Thrive’. I cringed the second I heard that ‘learn’ was a wallet-closing word!

Back to the drawing board? Perhaps I can switch out ‘Learn’ for another word.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks again!

Marsha from YesYesMarsha.com

Not using “teach” or “learn” is a TOTAL game-changer! Going to go and look over ALL my content and take this out!

A great, insightful interview with a very charming, easy to listen to gent. Thank you!

Peter Billingham

Hi Derek – although its a few months old now, the podcast with Michael Fishman was really relevant to where I am right now. Appreciate your style of interviewing and how you stop and rephrase the content from time to time, very helpful. Thanks for an informative podcast – sharing information on the subject of writing with skill and clarity.

Stephen from FreeDPT

Great tips on this podcast!
I love this advice: Don’t think “of” the market, think “as” the market!

I think everyone should take to heart the advice of writing at an 8th grade level. Super wordy, intellectual words are slower to read and understand. People want simple solutions quick, not have to sit there and process what the marketer is trying to mean.

The section on Wallet-closing words was great too! The psychological history of words was a real eye opener! Using words to create an ease of transfer like, share, show you, etc. is something I need to incorporate into my blog posts. I learned in the past that using the phrase “Find out…” as opposed to “Learn more…” has better conversions because the word “learn” turns people off as mentioned in the podcast.

dainis w michel

while listening — do you realize that information publishers use the word “content” and most “normal” people don’t talk that way?

i don’t want “content” from anyone. it’s weird.

    Tema Frank

    Thanks for pointing that out about “content”, Dainis. It is so easy to slip into jargon!

Kenneth Vogt

I like to say “words matter”. This applies to the types of words you use as Michael Fishman so clearly points out but it also applies to your intent behind the words. Words carry an energy of their own but they also carry an energy that the writer imprints upon them. I did an interesting little experiment on this and I detailed the results here: http://www.veraclaritas.com/what-is-not-said-is-still-heard/


Hey Derek,

I’ve checked a few times already, but the podcast transcript still isn’t available. Is it going to be someday ?

you see, i’m french, and i don’t understand people very well sometime, so the transcript helps a lot

Thanks in advance


Great subject! I’m hoping you will have a transcript.
No doubt I am a visual learner…10 minutes into the podcast I realized I had tuned out and was now shopping for computer parts on Amazon.
Whoops…I really meant to listen.

Thanks for your response to the spammer!


I made changes to our site while listening too. Had to keep pausing and rewinding. Extremely helpful. Great interview. Can you please, please send me a list of your recording equipment? Your sound was great for this. Michael called in, right? He was also clear. What did you use to record? I’ll pay you for the information. I simply must get my business set up for this. The founders and subject matter leaders are in different locations. I am going to set one of us up with a video shoot too. I can’t figure out the audio/podcast recording part, after reading books about it. Help!!


Michael Fishman has a wealth of experience and I have listened to this podcast twice. In a world where we can have podcasts coming out of our ears, that’s pretty good going.

Thanks for this Derek.

(Did you notice the associative language that married podcasts, which go into our ears, with an abundance of material that we can have so much of that it is coming out of our ears?)


I was unaware that words like “learn” or “teach” conjure up painful emotional memories for so many people. This discussion helped me understand negative word-triggers for potential clients and also reminded me of the importance of emphasizing how my business can create and support community. I am curious to hear Fishman’s perspective on the effect of businesses, academics, or influential individuals coining new words or phrases. Thanks for the great post.


I think some of the comments are missing the point of speaking to your audience in the same way that your audience speaks. You are saying to refine our abilities to listen. Priceless stuff, guys. Thanks.

Daniele Powell

I agree with another commenter that the length of this podcast is its main weakness. On the plus side, I loved the tweetable quote.

One aspect I think we should keep in mind in the Latin vs. Anglo-Saxon debate is that writers whose first language is not English (e.g. Spanish in the US or French in Canada) have an even harder time with these word choices, as it runs counter to what feels most natural to them. And the same may even be true for their audience.

Shaney Messner

I’m re-writing my entire home page based from this interview and the information shared. There are some key points I wouldn’t have otherwise EVER known. SO APPRECIATIVE of you both and your wisdom. Thank you 🙂

Nick Marshall

Great discussion but I think it was perhaps a little too prescriptive without making allowance for the target market. For example the idea that the words learn and teach may be a negative for some people is not to say that it is for everyone. Depending on the market you are after I would use those words if I was actively seeking clients who loved learning. Learning is about understanding, not just finding out how to or, gee whiz, discovering. Discovering can be an amazing eye opener and lead onto learning and understanding but if it is just about the quickly forgotten visceral experience then I would rather use the word learn to attract those who don’t have issues with the practice of learning. To take the approach that teach and learn must be associated with a bad experience is a bit of a stretch. Our schools are full of these weasel words today – words like interact or discover or seek are reinforcing the idea that learning is somehow not fun or too hard. Do we have to dumb down everything?

Bill In Miami

Great content… Finding this blog ranks right up there with finding a 22 year old that “looks just like you” drivers lic, when you’re 16…!

Can a brother get a transcript..???

Susan Colket

Derek, Thanks! I started a business writing course today. This conversation has a huge valuable and helps shape my goals. I see now how understanding is a two way street and how important it is to write so people feel understood. I came to you via Carol Tice’s Freelance Writer’s Den today. Thank you.

Matthew Ozolins

Okay so I guess it is time for me to rethink every sales pitch I have become a custom to haha. As a white Australian, it is funny to think that for all of these years I have not been writing in “Anglo-Saxon” language.

Everybody likes to sound a little smarter, but I am happy to sound like a total idiot if it will help me sell more haha.

Good stuff Derek!


Hi Derek. I came across socialtriggers.com only a couple of hours ago but I’m getting hooked!

My business caters to clients in several different countries, so I often find it tough to know how to choose the right words to type. Sometimes I worry that they don’t understand my email, if English isn’t their first language. This is perhaps the biggest hurdle for me. I found your podcast above to be so helpful and will be reviewing past customer emails tonight to look over my customers words and language. As you said, think AS the market!

One thing I’m struggling with though – regarding the will say/won’t say/can’t say. The examples you used above all related back to primal instincts, such as the pain example or the shelter example. I can also easily connect a food product to hunger and cosmetics to beauty/vanity. But I am struggling to relate to my own business on this one. I sell luxury, tailor-made holidays. Is there really any can’t say/won’t say in this one? I know that I’m selling an experience and expert knowledge on a specific area, but struggle to think of what the can’t say is.

Thank you again for such an informative and motivating site, I’ll definitely be checking back again.

Gina Bell

Great episode! I loved the tip about reading through your words at least twice… once for comprehension and a second time for interpretation. So helpful.

Mark Thomas

I was out jogging this morning.

It was sunny, but cool enough so as not to make my run uncomfortable.

However, as it has been over 5 years since I have done any form of exercise, getting out and about is usually no easy feat.

Today was no exception.

And as my run foolishly includes hill climbs that my legs are clearly not cut out for, I was sorley tempted to stop and take a breather.

But what kept me going was listening to your interview with Michael Fishman on the importance of avoiding wallet closing words or phrases in your copy text.

So this is just a short note to say thanks for getting me through a heap of pain that’s gonna do me some good, oh and also for the killer tips and content that you teach, I mean share.


Lori Stalter

Lecture, teach and learn are taboo? Ack! I used learn several times and teach once in my welcome email and first autoresponder. I didn’t even wait until the end of the podcast. I edited them out while continuing to listen.

It’s horrible America is down to an 8th grade reading level. I remember reading a Reader’s Digest article 15+ years ago that said most adult content is written at a 10th grade level. So much for our education system getting better! I guess I’ll take WordPress’s Proofreading service up on it’s rewrite suggestions more often when it offers easier words for the one’s I’ve written.

Varaneka Laxmi

Michael Fishman is so generous! I asked him for the names of books that I saw via Ramit Sethi’s blog, and he sent me two copies free! I had no idea he was into health, like me. I appreciate your sharing his tips. Can’t wait to put em into practice.

Gail Doby

An interview with real meat! Thank you.

My takeaway – finding a way to incorporate the “can’t tell” with subtlety in the copy.

I’d heard about not using “learn,” and now I understand why.

Loved the content.


Great podcast. I love how you talked about not making your audience feel not inteligent. That’s exactly what I have been trying to do with my website. I hope it will work out. Thanks a lot and keep these podcasts coming.

Mike Rubini

Hey Derek, finally read all your posts on this website. Great stuff!
Now looking forward to apply some of your advices on my own blog.

Lisa Cash Hanson

I never try to be smart 😉 I just try to be understood. Love the tips sorry I missed NY- next time.


Loved the underlying nuance of ” don’t think of your market, think AS your market”. Brilliant! You become one with them, and you’re not trying to pitch or sell them anything. Tuning into their wave-length is the best way to get an inside track. You and your guests are Wizards. Thank you for the powerful information. Going to put it to work.

Tema Frank

Hi Derek,

Great episode, as usual! I particularly loved that you picked up on one of my pet peeves: people saying utilize instead of use!

I was also struck by the example of the words teach and learn being negative association words for many people. It will make me more careful in my word choices. It is so easy to forget that just because I love learning, not everybody else does! (Your episode triggered a blog post at http://bit.ly/madwoman — with due credit to you and Michael, of course!)

Andrew Freeman

Derek, I really liked this podcast, specifically because I have experienced both as a consumer and as a marketer the inane need to add complicating words to the mix. I am trying to change the way we think where we work.

Also, just an FYI, I am using your advice of the click to tweet link on my own blog as you can see here in the article I wrote recommending your blog and this podcast

Caroline J

Mr Halpern! I’ve just listened to your review of Amy Porterfield’s website and it was so helpful. I do have a couple of questions – hope it’s okay to put them here.
How do you get the opt in form at the bottom of your post?
How do you get the opt in form at the top of the post? LOL
I am using Aweber. Thank you

    Lisa Cash Hanson

    I know you asked Derek I’m sure he’ll get back to you but something super easy and fairly cheap is pop up domination. I use it on my site it’s an easy solution. You can go on click bank become and affiliate and buy it from yourself 😉 Hope that helps.


Hey Derek and Michael,
Great interview. I first listened to Michael through Ryan Lee’s IC and got a lot of great tips. This one put the icing on the cake!



I agree with your analysis from what I have noticed people doing.

How do you feel about the same approach to gathering email addresses? If its a no-no to hard sell products why is it ok to hard sell SUBSCRIBE NOW opt-ins? What’s the difference? If someone is hard selling to get your email why wouldn’t you expect them to hard sell you on products they want you to buy?

Alan | Life's Too Good

Hey Derek,

I loved this podcast and will most likely listen to it again – like a lot of the material you find, promote or write, the simple yet deeply psychologically grounded concepts are fascinating – I love the point about not making the reader feel stupid, even sub-consciously.

Great job Derek – as always, fascinating stuff,

take care & very best wishes,

Leah Troiano

I’ve been a professional writer for 20 years, and this advice is spot on. Never use “utilize” when you can say “use” — is something that my editors have said for years and years. That said, never talk down either.
One great idea when writing is to speak the words to get them out of your head and into your ears. Some words sound different if you hear them, rather when read them.

Michelle Gower

Being that I’m a teacher/trainer for a living (for small business), I got a good reminder right away of those three terms that can drive potential students away. I knew not to say teach, lecture, or learn (I use share/show, discover, and interact) – but it still hooked my attention for a refresher/double-check. The core of my work is to break down the jargon and turn complicated subjects into plain English. You’d think then that plain English would automatically spill over to my copy, but no – on my website, I’m a marketer. In the classroom, I’m a teacher. Even though I’m talking about the exact same subject. Hmm.


Mike Tieden

I’m just starting a consulting business and this was a great listen. I’ve heard the “don’t think OF your market, think AS your market” quote before, but I kind of thought “duh.”

It was great to hear it again, and be able to apply it to my website copy. I rewrote most of what I had, because I was using such big technical words. My market doesn’t care about those words, nor do they know what they mean.

Thank you Derek for this discussion. Great stuff.

Dave Zan

I’ll get around to finishing the podcast later, but I just wanted to comment and say thank you. To think I’ve read and learned long ago that supposedly it’s not what you say, but how you say things that can make a difference.

Goes to show that how you say and what you say can make quite a difference!


Beauty, Life, Love, and Freedom, for you the only words are. Hard cash and success, earn truth and yes! this is the food, vote 2012 this time change for real is real!

Is there a transcript or do I really have to listen to a Podcast? I don’t have commute time …

Tom Watson

Derek…you hit a home run on this podcast. I learned more than I would like to admit, especially the wallet closing words (which surprised me, but makes perfect sense).

In addition, I’ll be re-reading just about everything I do several times over going forward (for comprehension and interpretation). Thanks as always!


I have no idea what “get’s the red out” means …. ??!

    Dave Zan

    He he, probably the Visine commercial: Visine…gets the red out…in 60 seconds.


WOW I really need to think as the market way more – my website is way to full of those ‘ion’ complicated words! Thanks for the advice, Ellen

Michal DD

It reminded me of NLP. You not only think what to say but which words to use.

Gemma D Lou

Hey Derek

Thanks for the post. It’s so weird that you posted this article about the psychology of language because just this week in fact, someone introduced me to http://aiminstitute.org which has a feature called the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer. It’s awesome! However, they don’t really list words that don’t inspire emotions, they just leave it to you to tweek your headlines until you get the desired results.

So it’s great learning about how Anglo-saxon words has a better effect at reaching hearts than do Latin words. I guess it depends. Like, Latin prefixes must have some emotional benefit, eg. anti-, pro-, semi-. I would consider them quite powerful considering folks with causes say stuff like, “Pro-Life”, “Anti-Racism.”

And even though I’m no twitterer, I did start to pen before you said to tweet, “Don’t think about who your target market is, think as the target market.” That’s a great point!!!!!! It might seem so blatantly obvious, but by getting into the mindset a little, it makes things so much more clearer.


Karen Daniels

Regarding the 4th C – Community. Derek, as part of your Blog that Converts group I didn’t realize until this blog post why the community aspect of BTC is so important – even though I’m part of it. In retrospect, the BTC course you provided well worth the price, the ongoing community, priceless. I’m thinking the most important thing I just learned relates to community and how I can introduce this aspect to my own blog to increase engagement.

Joeal Manimtim

Hi Derek, nice class and Michael Fishman was great!

As usual thanks for this!


Thanks for a clear, concise call. I have been working on my writing and branding and this pulled together a lot of what I have been learning. Having been land-based for 8 years, I just went online about 6 months ago and have a ‘new’ presence online. This was a great chance to drop some services, add others, and clean up my message. This call helped me with my planning and future choice of words.

Richard G. Crockett

At the risk of being one of those dreary people who tries to sound smart, I have to say that this whole bit of “Latin vs. Anglo Saxon words” is completely wrong.

There are really only a handful of pure Germanic (that is, Anglo Saxon) words in English. Words like “the, which, who, why, though,” and such. In other words, the tiny particles that glue our language together.

In the podcast, “use and utilize” were used as examples. *Both* have Latin roots, but “utilize” is a *particularly* Anglo Saxon way to turn an adjective into a verb.

That being said, I agree with the main point even if the theory behind it is simply not true. Forgive me if I sound stentorian (hah!) but I figure what I’m saying is not over the head of anyone smart enough to read the comments, so the rule, “Be the audience” is senior.

Rick (My undergrad was Classical Languages and Literature. I put the “eek” in “geek.”)

Rich Russell

I was attracted to this podcast by the phrase, “wallet closing words”, but I thought it was very thin on examples of them. For me there was a bit of a disconnect between the promise and the delivery.

There was some good stuff in there though. I am writing a presell and it occurs to me that there might be a more deep seated, lizard brain need beneath the more obvious ones. I will have to think about how to subtly work that in.

I like the idea of rereading your work several times with different objectives. I have had experience in my day jobs of doing a quality assurance process on my own work. When you have spent hours giving it your best shot, it can be so easy to slip into confirming that it is right rather than actually checking.

Sheila Bergquist

Wow, what a fascinating podcast! There were so many things I’ve never thought of or heard before. I especially liked the wallet closing words and plan to be very aware of this as I write copy. Truly some new ideas that are not the normal run of the mill advice, but very important. Thanks Michael and Derek!

Esther Schorr Raphael

The will say, won´t say can´t say thing applies perfectly to the Feldenkrais Method, that my business is about. we use that to change the way people use themselves and it was incredible clear when I heard about that here. So simple, so undertandable! If I use this in my practice why shoudn´t I use it when marketing my own work????
The thing about the language I have to figure out how it works in portuguese, because I from Brasil, but I certainly going to pay attencion about the message and negative feelings some words may trigger. Loved it all. Thanks a lot


Hey Derek,

Got a transcript of this? Reading is faster and more efficient for me than listening to the entire podcast…

Michael Klusek

“one” thing I learned…

will say, won’t say and not even aware concept.

and how you plan to apply it to your business…

Talk less about tech and more about what prospects are feeling[frustrated, overwhelmed etc] and how I can solve that for them.

Marc Manieri

Great stuff, as always. My biggest takeaway (again – meaning, in my opinion, a crucial marketing principle that can be easy to forget even though i’ve heard it 1000 times): SELL PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT, GIVE THEM WHAT THEY NEED.

Derek, I have a question for you: From what I can tell I think you’re a no non-sense guy, who is blunt and talks straight about the things you care about most and believe in most. Where do you draw the line – or strike the balance – between conforming to what your audience wants and staying inspired to offer what you believe in most and what you’re passionate about, regardless of what anyone else thinks?

Robin Hallett

Loved this! And Derek, loved that you had a super cool person from the healing community (and more) on! Woo hoo!

Ok, super great what I learned- do not alienate your audience. Speak to them in a way they feel understood. Think as the market, baby.

My two cents: If you allow your voice to sound too highfallutin, it creates shame for people who already feel vulnerable in looking for help.

Thanks Derek and Michael!

Robb Dunewood

Hey Derek,

I was wondering if you publish an RSS feed specifically for your podcast? I’d love to subscribe so that I could easily listen while in the car on my Android phone, but, have found iTunes to be the only way to subscribe.


Hey there Derek – my first listen – your voice was so different in my imagination! Loved it – lots of take away here. The specific action piece for me tonight is this: collect emails and comments, database the language used. The ‘gold’ language is all there in front of me! Thanks x

Caroline Reid

Hi Derek,

Thank you for the masterclass. I love the four Cs, especially CREDIBILITY… a particularly relevant word for women, who seem to find it more difficult to talk themselves up than men do. And COMMUNITY – I never gave this much thought before but now I’ll be much more conscious of it; and how I fit into the community that I’m a part of.


Janet Abercrombie

It’s difficult to avoid “teach” and “learn” when I’m helping schools and businesses align curriculum, instruction, and results (all jargon).

I’m wondering how the word “coach” works. “consult”?


One Question. So have you closed down the “Landslide Of Traffic By Blogging” deal? It came out just after one other Guru closed his own blogging package. He contradicted himself so darn much I just got turned off, unfortunately I heard about you pretty late. Well I’m on the look out should you come up with it again. You sounded like a Renegade Pastor on the Webinar. TeeeHeeeeHeeee

Jan Terkelsen

Hi Derek,
Appreciate the interview and the practical examples.
I have recently been exposed to the first C word ( Credibility) today as someone wanted to know why I charge as much as I do. I had to educate them on my credibility. ( He was someone outside my usual sphere).
More work to do.

Thank you.

Irene Lyon

This was AWESOME Derek, Thanks!

I’m in the wellness/health sector and the Feldenkrais Method forms one of my main practices and our main north america organization uses – often – the tagline, “Learning how to learn” in their promo materials.

I tend to only use it when I have dedicated students in my classes.

It is a funny twist to what you two were talking about, because most of our public school and college education can definitely turn us off of learning, yet in this practice (of Feldenkrais) the goal is to bring learning back to be curiosity driven, playful and skill oriented (like when we were toddlers), as opposed to rote, structured and willful “learning”.

I wonder what Michael would say about such a tag when in fact the goal is to re-teach how we learn….maybe I’ll send him a note.

thanks again, Irene.


As always, Derek, you bring the best! As a writer-for-hire, I find that one of the most important hats that I wear is that of educator. Educating my clients about jargon-free web copy and plain speaking is key to clear communication.

I, too, am a word nerd, and am deliberate about the words that I choose. And, as a side note, I make it a point to strip *utilize* from everything that I write. Makes me crazy–just *use* it, people! 🙂


Great job Derick! My one take away was to strive for 100% comprehension and 100% interpretation.

So now prior to publishing each post I will proof read for 100% comprehension and interpretation. Each post will be written to an eighth grade level.



Thank you for posting this! I’m definitely guilty of using smarty-pants language when I write and speak so I definitely need to become wary of that when I launch my website and when I talk to people in general.



Hi Derek
Listened to this podcast today and I have then gone straight to iTunes to download the rest. Awesome.

Can you tell me how to review on iTunes as I cannot work it out but would like to do this for you.

I am starting my own little business at the moment after years of being at home with the kids and studying to gain some CREDIBILITY.

Is very exciting but there is so much to do and I don’t know where to begin. At least I can get into copywriting and know that I will be able to produce some great stuff for potential clients now.

Thanks so much

    Michael Klusek

    Once you have subscribed to the podcast go to you list of podcasts, select Social Triggers Insider. Then you will see list of episodes. There is a field called rating for each episode. You can assign 1 to 5 stars. If that column is not showing right click the top line of column descriptions and check it so it appears. Viola.

Sean Mysel

Love this interview! It’s exactly how I like to teach my golfers. If a person played baseball…I use baseball terms. Football or hockey? I’m using that terminology.

Well Done D!

Damien Elsing

About using more advanced language for a more advanced audience (like rocket scientists)…

Even when you’re dealing with a very smart audience, you should still use simple language because they don’t necessarily want to think too hard when they’re browsing the web or looking for something to buy.

Just because someone CAN understand more complicated language doesn’t mean you should make them.


Interesting to know that ‘correction’ is a positive jargon word. So happy he mentioned subject lines that don’t have anything to do with what’s in the body of the email. That kind of marketing just turns me off.

Sean Davis

Very good.

I’ve had a little bit of success writing tutorials for the Thesis WordPress theme. I feel like I owe it to the fact that even though I understand some very technical stuff, I still feel like I beginner.

So when I “share” what I know, I speak with works that a beginner understands. Many people tell me that of the many articles they’ve read on similar subjects, mind are the easiest to follow and understand.

I wasn’t aware of why I had this ability. But now it makes sense why it matters so much.

Good stuff, gents.

P.S. Totally loving the first comment action.

Nick Burns

The gold for me in this podcast is the “will say, won’t say, and can’t say.” I see that thinking of it in this way will help me get to the core emotion I’m trying to reach with my copy.
The thing is, how do we know what that primal, can’t say, cave man/woman emotion is. Hmmm…does Michael have more examples like he used in the podcast? A short ebook or white paper? Pain relief is survival, repairs at home is fear not able to provide a home/cave…does Michael have more?
Thanks for the info sharing, Derek!

Al Yarbrough

This information is from the Online Etymology Dictionary at

utilize (v.)
1807, from Fr. utiliser, from It. utilizzare, from utile “usable,” from L. utilis “usable,” from uti (see use (v.)).

Utilize is fast antiquating improve, in the sense of ‘turn to account.’ [Fitzedward Hall, “Modern English,” 1873]

use (v.)
mid-13c., from O.Fr. user “use, employ, practice,” from V.L. *usare “use,” frequentative form of pp. stem of L. uti “to use,” in Old L. oeti “use, employ, exercise, perform,” of unknown origin. Replaced O.E. brucan (see brook (v.)).

Hope that helps,


This was an excellent interview! Thank you for all of the tips. My favorite was using “what they will say, what they won’t say and what they can’t say” and how to figure out how that applies to each of my client’s problems. I can’t wait to do my homework and come up with solutions that I know my clients will understand easily.

Marica Zammit

Uh Oh! Who knew that the word “learn” can trigger negative feelings in people?!!

I’m a great advocate for keeping things simple, eliminating jargon and thinking and speaking like your customers but I never realized that some seemingly simple words can have a negative effect. I guess I will have to go back and edit some of my pages because I often use phrases like “in this section, you’re going to learn …”

I also loved the 4 C’s … I’m going to work on establishing my credibility more. By nature I am not one to brag, so I tend to “forget” to do this in my copy. Time to change that 🙂

Thank you Derek for organizing this interview with Michael. This has been one of my top favorite episodes!

Dana Williams

I’m going to focus on finding words that will grab people in the three domains of their psychology: what they WILL say, what they WON’T say, and what they CAN’T say. I definitely want my clients and potential clients to know that I “get” them!


Not only was your interview informative, but the dialogue kept me engaged. Sometimes webinars and interviews can be dry and I realize I’ve tuned out.
Fantastic job.

If I have to pick just ONE thing, jeeze, it would be:
Being aware of language that triggers an unconscious (undesirable) reaction. The importance of word choice. For example, share -vs – teach.

How will I use it:
I will simplify my email campaigns by introducing conversational tones and simplify language.

But truly there were a host of wonderful nuggets.

PS – I attempted to leave a review for you on itunes, though I downloaded the mp3 from your site. I couldn’t figure out how to leave one. I’d be more than happy to if you can point me in the right direction.


Remind people why you’re credible was my biggest takeaway from this presentation.
A tool I use to better understand my audience is Google Analytics. Average age and gender is good information to have but also the location of your audience.
Two communities separated by a 100 mile radius will have entirely different cultures or normalicies.

christian howes

Derek- such an awesome masterclass. thanks very much! totally actionable tips I can use right away .
quick questions, only if you have the time:

I’ve been struggling with how to best implement a forum for my membership program to provide the sense of Community you discussed with Michael- you said you opted for a private facebook group- any particular reason why not to use a forum? the forum is certainly more technically challenging so far and the idea of starting a private FB group sounds like it would be easier for sure….

thnx again

    Mohamed Anan

    Hi Christian.

    I think I can help you with this. If you are using wordpress. There is a great easy to use plugin called BBpress Forum! I’m hesitant to include a URL. I don’t want to get on Akisment bad side : D But just search for it on the wordpress dot org plugins directory

    It’s really easy. Just upload it, activate it and go to the options and create as many sectors and sub sectors as you wish. Create rules and everything you need. It’s really easy and clear PLUS if you got stuck at any stage you can always go to the support forum. These guys have a very supportive and friendly community.

    Hope this helps : )

    Now regarding the “post” -yea i don’t call it article Derek lol
    It’s simply awesome! recently I’ve discovered the importance of choosing your words! and always trying to make it simple and as clear as possible.

    I use short sentences with lots of spaces in between and pictures. But the best tip I got about knowing the language of your audience! This would simplify a lot of things by knowing the popular slangs!

    One other tip I always like to use in my blog posts is. I imagine talking to the readers! I say “you” “me” “us” and many times when I state it clearly when I forget to mention something.

    I try not to make it a blog post. I try to imagine myself in a workshop presenting for people with energy, sense of humour -trying!- and smart comebacks!

    This is my first comment. But I’m a regular reader. Hope to add value to this awesome community.

    Thank you.


    Michael Klusek

    yes I was curious about that also.


Hey, I found what I listened to helpful… but I don’t know maybe I’ve got the attension span of a fruit fly but I found it too long. After the 30 minute mark I had a hard time caring. I think that’s an important thing too, keeping your message short enough that people still listen… or maybe its me

David Bridger

Thank you, Michael and Derek!

I learned a lot from this discussion, but the one thing I did right away was tweak my newsletter sign up copy.

I’m a novelist, so you can call me a word geek and I’ll take it as a compliment. Just this past week I spent 45 hours line editing my next novel, fine tuning my words to the nth degree with my editor, and that’s after I spent two months at the beginning of the year working with her on developmental changes and before I get to work with the copy editor on punctuation and house style, etc.

When I blog I like to focus as much on comprehension and interpretation as I do when I’m writing my novels. And, Derek, I’ve paid close attention to your guidance and made lots of changes to my navigation and copy.

So, after listening to your podcast today I took the word “receive” out of my newsletter link and used “get” instead. Instant straight talking. Instant loss of that unwanted corporate tang. A tiny tweak, but the best ones often are.

Thanks again!


Thank you Derek and Michael, this was so helpful and very timely. I’m in the middle of creating my first sales video and I’m SO very appreciative that I listened to this before sending the copy to my video producer. I’ve taken notes and have implemented all? of your suggestions.

Much gratitude.

p.s. I work for Strategic Coach and love the Unique Ability concept. HA! 🙂

Jen Saez

Once again Derek provides excellent straight forward content with no BS.

The business you have is based upon the words you use to describe it.

Think as the market not of the market.

Repelling words: Lecture, teach, learn, student… Try share information.

Proof read your content for comprehension, interpretation, caring, community and credibility.

Have an understanding of what people will say, what they won’t say and what they can’t say.


Interesting points about community. It’s a huge part of my success right now, AND, it reminds me of a recent launch by a best selling author I signed up for, it was expensive, and they put zero thought in “community” even though they mentioned how great it would be IN THE LAUNCH! LOL

PS – Refunded

Great post Derek and Micheal

Lezley Knott

Great info! Keep it coming!


Really enjoyed this, Derek.

My biggest takeaway were the 4 C’s, particularly credibility, and how it needs to be established right away and often.

I’ll be using this tip when I launch my next thing.


Nancy Fox

GREAT tip – read once for accuracy/content, read again for interpretation.
Thanks Michael and Derek.
I’d love a whole list of wallet closing words.
Would the word “help” fall under the wallet-closers?

Kimberly Houston

There are so many golden nuggets in this interview, I don’t know where to begin!

I learned way more than one thing. A couple of the most valueable take-aways: Eliminate jargon, don’t use the words “teach,” “learn,” or “lecture,” and use the exact words people use the to describe their problems when writing your “material.” ; )

How I plan to use this to my advantage is by continuing with a project I recently started: asking folks — my email subscribers, my friends with small businesses, the people I meet at networking, and my current tiny group of customers — to talk to me about their challenges as it relates to my niche. I’ve been gung-ho to figure out if there’s some kind of product I could offer and want to create an MVP of some sort to test the market, but before I do that, I want to have as many conversations as I can with real people experiencing the kind of challenges I’m already helping my current customers with, so I can get a bead on exactly how they describe their problems.

Thanks for the awesomeness, Derek and Michael!

Travis Van Slooten


This was my first time listening to your Social Triggers podcast. I didn’t even know it existed:) Great podcast. I use the word “Learn” all the time but in hindsight it really does sound like a negative word. Who the hell wants to “learn” something? Sounds like high school – no thanks.

The 4 C’s were great too. I’ve got them written down on a post-it note on my desk as a friendly reminder when I write.

Travis Van Slooten

Ken O'Brien

I just finished listening to the whole thing, and there are a lot of really great points to take action on.

Our diy blog is only five months old, but we are growing fast (30,000 pv in July), we are still trying to figure out exactly who is engaging with our site the most.

So the tip about mining our emails and comments for language is pretty helpful, and so I think we’ll start there.

Thanks for posting this Derek!


Hey Derek!

Awesome talk today with Michael Fishman. Thanks so much for putting this together. I’m a copywriter and live and breathe all that Michael and you spoke about today, but here are some new things I learned today (and can’t wait to share as I write for my clients!): that words like “lecture,” “teach” and “learn” can trigger painful or offputting feelings; to seek 100% identical interpretation of words in addition to 100% comprehension; and to use the “awareness model” (what will say, won’t say and can’t say). I always make it my practice to put myself in the target audience’s shoes, but the awareness model makes it plain why this is critical and gives me a great lead to follow.

LOVE IT! thanks again, Michele

Kasie Whitener

The part about “unique” and “ability” losing their power in marketing content was really interesting.

I love that he suggested people be “rigorous” with the language they use. Awesome.

Thanks for bringing this to us, Derek!

Jason Hull

I had to work really hard to not close my mind to this podcast. I want to assume my audience is intelligent (they are!) and I want to have the heart of a teacher, which, through using those Latin words, brings back these bad memories of the teacher rapping the reader’s knuckles.

The last company I owned was a software development company, and I had to be the one that ensured that there was minimal jargon in our presentations unless it was to a technical audience. I used the story of Napoleon’s corporal when imparting how we should communicate to non-technical people with whom we’d interact. Napoleon had a corporal who was very dumb. When Napoleon’s marshals would brief him on their plans, he had the corporal then tell Napoleon what the marshals were trying to do in the corporal’s own words. If Napoleon’s corporal understood what the marshal was planning, then Napoleon knew that every soldier would understand.

Here’s an article about how using clear language, terminology, and pictures help patients comply with instructions: http://courses.washington.edu/pharm440/pharm440/brochure.PDF

This was a great reinforcement that we can cover complex topics without using complex words – turn jargon into “real English.”

By the way, nice shock…err…correction that you issued in the comments!


I completely obsess over word choices! And, still, don’t always choose the right words, I know. I sure hope I’m not regularly repelling people with my word choices. But an 8th grade level?! Makes me shudder even though I know it’s probably true.
The biggest thing I struggle with, I think, is that I don’t think of my personal blog as a business, as trying to sell something. I want to think of it as a form of expression only. BUT I want people to want to consume my expression on a regular basis so I guess I am really “selling” something (albeit for free).
What makes me want to consume others expression? – That’s the “think as the market not of the market” soundbite. Yep. I get it now.

Deb Lund

I’ve always tried to keep my writing easy to read and to eliminate jargon (depending on my audience of course), but this was a great reminder to those of us with strong education backgrounds to not trigger negative responses in the people we most want to reach.

    Derek Halpern

    Jargon is one of the hardest things to eliminate from your communication materials. You don’t really know what’s considered jargon until you stumble on someone who doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

    A great example of jargon, especially in the blogosphere, is the word “post.” To this day I still don’t know what the word post means. I understand the word article, but post? 🙂


      How much more accurate ‘article’ sounds compared with ‘post.’ (Not sure about ‘material’ – sounds like a trip to the draper’s or the hardware shop, but then that’s a function of context, too, I guess). I’m going to my site to change the relevant page title from Posts to Articles (of course, then there are ‘articles’ of clothing…). Thanks, Derek, and your guest, Michael.

      Ross O'Lochlainn

      It stems from the old message board communication method, where you would post your message on the board (a poster).

      It then ran from there into digital forums/message boards…and from there it just became standard unit for “online digital publishing items” 🙂

      Or something like that anyway…

Jacob Holton

20 minutes in, and this is extremely useful.

And I’m laughing my ass off that you removed the link to that guy’s site.

I love the idea of putting every word under a microscopic. Every word has a job, and that is to get you to the next word. This is important for everything from the domain name to the headlines to the copy.

Couple things:

What are your thoughts on these obviously Latin-based words (many of which are overblown)?


I think I heard every one of those in the podcast, so even Michael uses them conversationally. I think they can pass the test of “getting through” to 100% of the people, but they might not pass the 100% identical interpretation test.

Obviously, using these words in a context that makes sense with their generally accepted meaning is different from replacing the word “shock” with the word “correction,” but where do you draw the line using these Latin-based words?

Second thing I thought of was a consulting gig I did for McDonald’s. Across the country, every employee in every McDonald’s is supposed to say “What can I MAKE for you today?”

Even though the person taking your order obviously isn’t making your food, the company did not want them saying things like “What can I get for you,” or even “what would you like today?”

It was bizarrely noticeable.

    Derek Halpern

    There’s always an exception to every rule.

    P.S. I made myself laugh writing that sentence :-).


Actually, I learned quite a bit. Very enjoyable to absorb and good information. I know I will be looking at my site for the areas the two of you spoke of.


    Derek Halpern

    Was there something specific that you’d like to call out?


      Call out meaning what I’m looking to change? Yes, there is. The area of congruence first. I know my markets age (approx) and interest. I have a conflict in tastes I must move past. That conflict is making “cutesy” things that have no use. I also have 3 focus areas and the conversation shared with listeners hit dead center with me yesterday on the topic of congruence and community. Most certainly will be listening again to this specific talk.

        Derek Halpern

        Awesome Sher. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear 🙂


What I learned? Credibility, Care, Community, Current events, Congruence = CASH (The Big C)

    Derek Halpern

    The 4Cs is a great insight. I think I need to do a follow-up article about just that and share my take on it a bit more.


“Never Wear the FAT Dress Again”… I can really appreciate this statement because I constantly tell my team to get to know the language our potential customers use. It takes homework, but it really makes the difference. We deal primarily with the Engineers up until the time where the bean counter gets involved. Both groups have their own language and we need to come across as both aware of the Engineering needs as well as the ROI and show it in term and analogies they (the customer) are used to. LOVE YOUR ARTICLES!!!!!

    Derek Halpern

    Glad to hear it Christian. “Never wear the FAT dress again” was such a wonderful example. I’m happy it was brought up!

Ross O'Lochlainn

Great insight here:

“We need to be offering people not what we think they need, but what it is they want”

Only problem is that sometimes people don’t realise what they “need” and what they “want” isn’t going to get them the results they desire.

I’ve had some good success since I’ve applied the mantra: “Sell them what they want, give them what they need”

Anyone else apply this gem?

    Derek Halpern

    Oh, of course. All smart marketers do.

    And you’re right. What people want is often at odds with what they need. For example, right now, I want a piece of candy. My health, on the other hand, says no :-).


      Here I have a problem that I’m struggling with since quite a while. Maybe one of you smart people can give me an encouraging mindset that gets me past this.

      Giving “them” what “they need” implies, that you know, what they need? That you know, what is good for them…

      How do you know?

      How could you possibly know, what is good for another person?

      Just because the product works for you or works for another person, doesn’t mean it works for the third person!

      I guess the problem I’m having with this is, that it kind of elevates me from the other person because i supposedly “know”, what is right for her. And this elevation leads to (in my head) a small group of elitist “that know” and sheep that buy. And that is, what I’m struggling with.

      Maybe I just have to accept, that this is the world we live in and most people live unconsciously and their buttons are pressed to the elitists liking?!

      How do you see that?


        Mo, this is the same idea that I have a little bit of trouble with to. Would love some feedback on this from the pros.

Jarkko Helenius

Thanks Derek for this! I really needed this one.

    Derek Halpern

    I removed the link to your website simply because there’s no way you could have known that you needed this one without listening to the podcast. I suspect the only reason why you left a comment was to siphon off free traffic to your domain.

    Now don’t get me wrong…

    I’ve got nothing against people who comment for traffic. It’s completely okay in my book. But commenting on content… without consuming some of the content first… is not acceptable at Social Triggers.

      Stanley Lee

      I’m LMAO when I see this…especially after seeing Ramit pointing how you’ve handled this.

        Sharon Floyd

        RIGHT ON. Found you through Laura Roeder, Derek. I’m listening to your podcast BECAUSE of this comment thread (and because of the irresistible headline, of course).

      Ross O'Lochlainn

      Derek “Hardline” Halpern.

      Haha – I love it.

        Jay Samolowicz

        Derek – I came to this post to see your first comment smackdown as “facebooked” by Ramit Sethi. I haven’t listened to the podcast yet. (I will listen to this tonight actually, very intriguing)

        Both of you punks ROCK – thank you for the great material. Here is one more sentence containing no useful insights into this post.

          Derek Halpern

          I saw that update from Ramit Sethi. I’m pretty sure this will be a blog post in the making. How to develop the community you want… not the community that you get. 😀

      Mike Hill

      Pretty much love that you set your own rules in your own domain! Good for you 🙂 (havent listened to the podcast yet, but gotta give ya props for setting rules of engagement) 🙂

        Derek Halpern

        Go figure, right? Most publishers forget that when they run a website, it’s their website. Heh.

          Kenneth Vogt

          So are you saying that if someone read/listened to/watched your content and thought, “Hey, I already wrote a blog post with complementary info on that topic”, you will NOT allow them to include a link to it in their comment?

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