Mastering The Art Of The ‘Power Phrase’

Mastering The Art Of The ‘Power Phrase’

This morning I woke up with Don Henley’s certified banger, The Boys Of Summer, stuck in my head.

Aside from the fact that my music taste is firmly pre-millennium - reinforced by my recognising just 30% of the nominees for this week’s Brit Awards - this song is stuck in my head because it has a damn catchy chorus.

So, this got us thinking: without the assistance of a sing-along melody and tantalising hook, can you emulate this ‘catchiness’ in content creation? Can text ever capture the attention, memory and imagination in the same way as a song?

The answer...yes! Allow us to introduce you to a creative content technique we like to call the ‘power phrase’.

What is a power phrase?

Think of the power phrase as your content’s sound bite.

It’s a literary device that helps your content to resonate more strongly with your audience by grabbing their attention and staying in the memory for longer. In essence, it’s a catchy line, phrase or snippet that readers simply can’t ignore.

To do this, the power phrase should be clear, concise and compelling - it should be lyrical while still pulling readers closer to the heart of your message.

This can be tricky to master, and like most literary techniques, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here. The power phrases that work best for your content will depend entirely on your brand, sector and audience.

Power phrase techniques

Luckily, we know a thing or two about content creation. Below, we’re running through some of the most effective power phrase techniques you can introduce to your own content creation.

Anaphora

What is it?

Anaphora is all about repetition used at the beginning of successive sentences, phrases or clauses. It’s rhythmic, it’s structural, it’s snappy, it’s effective.

Example

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender” - Winston Churchill

Why it works

Repetition is a tried and tested literary method for good reason: it makes the message memorable.

But how does it do this? At face value, it’s pretty simple - you’re more likely to remember something the more times you hear it.

Beneath the surface, you’ll find that this memorability is actually emphasised through the use of literary rhythm. Like a pulsating bass drum keeping the beat, anaphora gives your content flow that adds a rhythmic dimension to your content.

By using anaphora, you can place added emphasis on the most important aspects of your content through the tools of rhythm and repetition.

How to use

This isn’t to say you should begin littering your content with anaphora. On the contrary, this device is best used sparingly.

This way, you can avoid unwanted predictability in your content’s structure, using anaphora for dramatic emphasis to maximise memorability.

Remember to uphold the core values of the power phrase, too: clear, concise and compelling. Don’t try and overcomplicate things. Instead, use simple vocabulary and sentence structure, letting your rhetoric do the hard work for you.

Tricolon

What Is It?

After extensive research in 1989, De La Soul determined three was the magic number.

Championing this in your content approach, tricolon is the art of using a cluster of three. Simple as that - bish, bash, bosh.

Example

"Government of the people, by the people, for the people" - Abraham Lincoln

Why it works

Once again, the power behind this literary device is hidden in rhythm. But if anaphora is your kick drum keeping the beat, tricolon is your ear-catching drum fill.

While anaphora looks to create familiarity through a driving rhythm, tricolon instead plays on distinction. By creating a satisfying rhythm, the phrase is rhythmically emphasised through the variation of pace.

The succinct nature of the triclon method also creates an element of finality and completeness - again, a powerful tool for creating content that sticks to the mind like glue.

How to use

There are two primary ways you can approach the use of tricolon.

The first is through a tightly knit cluster of three, like in our use of ‘bish, bash, bosh’ above. Here, the syllabic flow combines with the parallel structure to create an undeniably attention-grabbing phrase.

The second approach is to use rhythmic emphasis within the tricolon itself. Doing this enables you to emphasise within your emphasis - think of it as the Matrix of literary devices.

To pull this off, first find your pairing - your two words or clauses that initiate your pattern - and then extend your third phrase for added stress. A great example of this can be found in the title of one of British TV’s greatest achievements: Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.

Because of the sense of resolution this device offers, a use of tricolon is most powerfully placed at the end of your content. Alternatively, if the topic and audience are right, it can also make for a super engaging content title.

Antithesis

What Is It?

Antithesis adopts the age old mantra that opposites attract by pairing two contrasting phrases. Easy to understand, tough to execute.

Example

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” - Charles Dickens

Why it works

By pairing contrasting ideas within your content, you’re able to place a disruptive emphasis on the phrase in question. This disruption in flow causes the reader to pay closer attention, thus helping your phrase become more memorable.

Aside from that, the use of juxtaposition also creates a sense of finality and resolution similar to that of tricolon, helping you to persuade in the process.

How to use

Antithesis is most effective when used every once in a while.

Similar to tricolon, the finality and persuasion achieved through this device means it’s best placed towards the end of your content or as an attention-grabbing heading.

How do you use antithesis correctly? Adhere to a rigid and succinct formula that packs a punch, then invert it: X is Y, Y is Z.

Power phrases are weapons that should feature in any content marketer’s arsenal. If you’re struggling to get to know your rhythm from your structure, leave it to the experts.

Get in touch with Paragraft to learn how we can help your business create content that sticks in readers’ minds today, tomorrow and beyond.

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