How to Use Words to Get What You Want

Q: Why should I care what words I use? Don’t they mean the same thing?

A: The English language is both nuanced and difficult. One word can mean the same as another, but give you the warm and fuzzies, while the other puts a bitter taste in your mouth. Would you rather someone say your work is “average”, or “mediocre”? Every word has a given definition, but it also has a  connotation.

The connotation (subtle, subconscious meaning) behind words has an awful lot of power when you are using them in the written form. When you speak, you can use nonverbal gestures to add clues to your message. You can display sarcasm or sincerity through tone of voice. When you are writing, however, you need to rely on the words alone to fully convey your meaning.

How to draw a picture with words

1. Consider your message

Are you trying to convey your technical knowledge or your creativity to your potential employer? Maybe you are trying to show your charismatic personality for that client services internship. Or, if you want to become a doctor, perhaps you are trying to show your compassion. Before deciding which words to use, try and consider what exactly the feeling is that you are trying to convey. Write down your message – you’ll need it in the next step.

2. Brainstorm words that come to mind when you think of your message

This is where might come in handy. If you need help thinking of words, look up your original word. Find one that you think sounds right, and then look it up in the thesaurus as well. Keep going until you have 10 or so words that relate to the feeling that you are trying to communicate. Here’s an example:


  • calculated
  • scientific
  • estimated
  • objective
  • accurate
  • systematic


  • created
  • designed
  • invented
  • discovery
  • artistic
  • stimulating
  • visionary


  • amiable
  • friendly
  • communication
  • engaging
  • charming
  • interesting
  • participation

One last note on this section: be sure to avoid words with negative connotations. For example if you are looking for words related to charismatic, don’t write “chatty”. For creative, don’t include “fanciful” or “in the clouds”. Trust your ear on this – generally you will hear if it sounds ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

3. Keep in mind the tone of voice

This section is pretty much a catch-all for the other ways people interpret your words.

  • If you use “I” all the time, you will come off as conceited. But if you honestly did something worth mentioning, don’t be afraid to take credit for your achievements.
  • If you want to be seen as someone who gets things done, do not let things happen to you. Essentially, use the active voice as much as possible. Try to word things as  “I participated in technical design team on a key project”, not “I was part of a technical design project”. If you were actively involved, if you completed certain actions, feel free to say so!
  • Do not speak negatively about past employers or coworkers. Even if your last boss made you miserable the point where you had to quit, do not communicate this bitterness to your future employer. The working world is just like college and high school and anything else you’ve ever done. People have egos, and they have pride. They do not want to face the possibility of your speaking poorly about them in the future.

Now that you have your list of words, use them! If you are going to an interview, make sure you know your words so that you can incorporate them into your answers. If you are writing a cover letter or resume, use them in your sentences and in your lists of previous responsibilities. Remember – all words have connotations that differentiate them from other words. Communicate your message exactly as you want people to hear it by choosing the right words every time.

2 Responses to “How to Use Words to Get What You Want”
  1. incomepowerboost says:

    Very good information. I am native English speaker but not an English major in the writing sense so every little bit of advice helps when I write thank you.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] You also need to be sure to choose your words wisely. Use words that show you are responsible and grounded. Not sure which words to use? Read this article about how to use words to get what you want. […]

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