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The Power of Because

It's a Persuasive Word That Explains Why

The power of because: this seemingly innocuous word is the poster child for persuasive writing.

You may mistakenly think that “because” is forceful or pushy. Or it is too simple to make much of a difference. Not so!

Why the Power of

The word “because” is so powerful for one simple reason. It explains why.

Why does  giving a reason make a difference in persuading readers?

Because people resist change. They keep doing what they normally do unless you give them a reason to do something different.

By using “because,” you give them that reason.

What is especially interesting is that the reason you give doesn’t matter all that much. (Of course, if you’re a good writer you’ll give a compelling reason. More on that in a minute.)

The Power of Because: It’s Documented!

A well-known 1978 study by Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer demonstrates the “power of because.” The research data was gathered at a busy college campus copy center back in the day when copies were made at a Xerox machine rather than by a personal printer. The center was notorious for its perpetual waiting line.

Study participants asked those waiting in line one of three of these carefully-worded questions. Notice the percentage of positive responses to each one.

  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” 60% of those asked responded yes.
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” (Emphasis mine.) 93% of those asked responded yes.
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” (Emphasis mine.) 94% of those asked responded yes.

Using the word “because” and giving a reason produces a significantly higher positive response in persuading people to do something than when there was no “because” and no reason – even when the reason is not compelling, as in “because I need to make copies.”

Bottom line: people respond when you give them an explanation or a reason why.

Use “Because” to Explain Why

In writing, use “because” as a connector – to make a statement or a request, followed by an explanation.

Here are a few examples:

  • Give to XYZ because …
  • Susan Smith uses XYZ because …
  • I like XYZ better than ABC because …
  • If you like ABC, you’ll like XYZ because …
  • You don’t want to miss XYZ because …
  • I need your help with XYZ today because …
  • Try XYZ because you don’t want to …

Give a Compelling Reason after “Because”

Preferably, the reason you give is compelling – one that offers benefits. Compare these examples:

Without “because”: weak

“I hope you’ll give as generously as you can.”

“Because” with one reason: stronger

“I hope you’ll give as generously as you can because these children are counting on you.”

“Because” with compelling benefits: stronger yet

“I hope you’ll give as generously as you can – even $20 will help – because these children have no one. Because they are counting on me and counting on you. Because you have made a difference in the past and the need is greater now than ever before.”

See how it works?

Double the Power of Because

Used together, these two words are even more persuasive than they are on their own: because and you.

  • Because, by itself, gives the reader an objective reason why.
  • But because combined with you makes the reason personal!

If you’re writing to persuade, always try to use because … because it’s a word that gives the reader a reason to say yes.

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