Editor's note: Nancy Cox is the founder of Research Story Consulting. She can be reached at nancy@researchstoryconsulting.com.

While researchers are often described as “numbers people,” in truth they wrangle both numbers and words. Just like writers. Writers wield the power of numbers almost invisibly – like magic creating a spell over readers: the undeniable impact of a one-syllable word, the story element of dualities or the rhythm of three-part phrases. Imagine if you had X-ray glasses that let you see these magic numbers at work underneath engaging and memorable writing. While there is no coupon for X-ray glasses at the end of this article, there are explanations and examples throughout it that will let you see how writers write by the numbers.

Words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Each can be more powerful using the number one. Starting with words, one-syllable words are more powerful than multisyllabic words. This power goes beyond using simpler words. One-syllable words are survivors. In English, many one-syllable words are derived from Old and Middle English. As in before-the-Battle-of-Hastings-in-1066 old. They sound powerful as most have a consonant-vowel-consonant construction that crisps pronunciation.

Read aloud the word swaps below; breath and volume naturally drop at the end of the longer words. That drop weakens impact.

link vs. connection

start vs. activate

end vs. conclusion

rose vs. increased

fell vs. decreased

How can you quickly find the long words that could be weakening your writing? Use the proofreader hack of reading backwards. Without context, longer words stand out. Want to know if you’re a habitual polysyllabic writer? Most writing software has a readability score function (also labeled Flesch-Kincaid) that reports a count of syllables-per-word.

To find a short word to replace the long word, look up the long word. Dictionaries use ...