No, we're not talking about commanding Alexa or Google, or the new trending slang. We're talking about an essential element of effective communication, a specifically selected synonym for your sentence that supercharges the interpretive subtext.

An easy example is the use of the word, "supercharges," in the prior sentence. There were many options for verbs in that sentence. Clarifies could have been the word, but then the subtext would have been one of a benefit in reducing confusion. Empowers could have fit, but then the subtext changes to control. Supercharges has the subtext of power.


Apply this exercise to any prose, written or spoken; with any word types, particularly verbs. Verbs are the action words that bring sentences to life. Imagine you wanted to discuss with a colleague the journey you are about to embark upon with a new project. Would you look forward to walking the path together? Does crawling through your journey seem enticing? Perhaps you want it to be a sprint to get it over quickly. Will it be a confident stride to the conclusion or a dutiful march to the end?

You get our point. Looking for opportunities to make meaning and subtext clearer is the stuff of communication success. But, please, don't overdo it.


Hot words are like spice in fine cuisine. Not enough and the dish is bland and undistinguished. Too much and the recipe is heavy handed and one dimensional. How to judge? Remember that good judgment comes as the result of learning from bad judgments. Experiment in low stakes situations or your writing before unleashing your hot words in presentations.


Some people have habits that die hard, and word selection could be one of them. We often hear people that don't commit to their verbs and use bland words repeatedly, only varying verbs with a modifying adverb. Not the best strategy.

Adverbs can reduce the active tone of a sentence, sound pompous, and have unintended consequences. The classic business situation example is the overuse of "ly" adverbs: basically, clearly, obviously, surely, honestly – all of which have potentially troubling subtexts. They can be taken, in order, as simplistic, no option, any fool would get it, no discussion allowed, and maybe you shouldn't trust the rest of what I have been saying. Opt for a better verb and the active voice.

Nouns and adjectives are not safe from this word exercise, either. A task could also be cast as an assignment, job, chore, exercise, burden, errand, or calling. Each of these words lends a more specific meaning with the effect of the sentence much clearer. And we have all heard the person that overuses adjectives really, extremely or very to the point of annoyance. Again, don't be one of those. Choose your nouns and adjectives with a purpose.

Getting people to hang on your every word means you have communication power, status and influence. Earn it with the right word choice.