In today’s post-truth environment, simply presenting the facts isn’t enough. Trust is what matters most in modern communications. It’s what every brand and thought leader aims for: to be seen, heard, believed and echoed as trustworthy. And while truth-telling is deeply important in building such a reputation, it’s far from the only factor that influences credibility.

Think about various leaders and voices in today’s world: CEOs like Jeff Bezos, religious leaders like Pope Francis, cultural icons like Bono or political leaders like Justin Trudeau. What makes you believe or question each of these leaders? Chances are it goes well beyond what they say, and beyond their qualifications and even charisma.

Indeed, what we communicate is only half of the equation; it’s how we communicate that determines which direction our trust barometer goes. The tone and delivery of your messaging are essentially personality expressed in words. Every word we choose matters – from vocabulary usage to word order to the rhythm of our sentences – and impacts whether the reader or listener buys in to your story or leaves feeling doubtful.

Every word you choose matters and impacts whether the reader or listener buys in to your story or leaves feeling doubtful.Click To Tweet

Here are 10 word and syntax choice strategies to help you be trustworthy.

These can impact whether your communications are viewed as believable or questionable.

  • Statements that end in question marks (or verbally inflect upward) indicate a lack of confidence.
  • Phrases such as “I think” and “in my opinion” immediately devalue what comes next.
  • The use of hyperbole or exaggeration generally indicates a stretching of the facts, a need to compensate for the shortcomings of the reality.
  • A lack of full sentences or frequently repeating the same unfinished phrases leaves the reader or listener questioning.
  • Affirmative word choice – such as using “when” instead of “if” or “will” instead of “might” – eliminates doubt.
  • Hollow words such as “may,” “possibly,” “almost” and “about” signal non-commitment.
  • Simple, everyday language – like using the word “change” instead of “transform” or “did” instead of “accomplish” – humanizes the speaker, making him or her more believable.
  • Action verbs – like run, build, challenge or lead – make statements more convincing.
  • Active voice (researchers “showed”) comes across as more positive and more persuasive vs. passive voice (it “was shown”).
  • Vivid descriptions and details cause a reader to more intimately experience or connect with the message.

Writing copy that exudes conviction, instills faith and breeds devotion isn’t an act of magic and doesn’t come by accident. It can be done purposefully by applying technical language skills to convey a persuasive tone of voice. Whether the message is written or verbal, these techniques will take your communications from neutral to convincing, and boost your reputation as a trustworthy authority.

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With a keen ability to take vision and translate it into tactical action, Nicole has been helping the firm's clients realize their dreams for more than 18 years. As senior advisor, she is relied upon for her direct counsel, out-of-the-box thinking and creative programming. Her greatest joy is seeing others – clients, colleagues and peers alike – get to that aha moment, and she isn't afraid to take risks, ask the tough questions (maybe it comes from her years as a journalist) and experiment to get them there. Outside of the office she likes to keep it simple: relaxing by the beach with a good book and then cooking dinner for friends.