Auxesis and Meiosis. Because size matters

Presentation word choice impacts how customers perceive scale.

by Peter Watts

Will your customer be satisfied with the solution, happy with the solution, or delighted with the solution?

Is the cost involved for the project significant, reasonable, or modest?

We are creatures of size. Whenever something is described, our minds apply a level of scale, from small to large and onwards to gargantuan.

Effective sales presenters take control of that sizing process through their choice of words.

It’s all about your adjectives; the descriptive flavours in your speech.

Let’s take an example. Having had an accident slicing onions for the previous evening’s meal, you walk into the office with a dressing on your hand. A colleague asks you what happened. How do you describe the onion-slicing accident: Was it a nick? Was it a cut? Or was it a gash?

If you chose to use the word “nick” then you are making your injury appear smaller. The technical terms is meiosis. You are using smaller, less punchy words in order to intentionally downplay the significance. Your colleague smiles at you, and walks away.

If you choose the word “gash” however, then you are using the technique of auxesis. Dramatic adjectives make things appear bigger. Your colleague looks horrified and enquires about stitches and hospital visits.

Same injury, different descriptive terms, different audience reaction.

This process of scaling goes on in every human interaction. When presenting, there will be times that you consciously want to influence the direction of that scaling, towards either smaller or larger.

Next time you plan a sales presentation, take a moment to experiment with one or two new adjectives. When you want to make something stand-out in lights, look for a bigger, bolder adjective to do it with. When you want something to recede and appear smaller, use a quieter and more mouse-like adjective.

If you’re stuck for ideas, do a Google search for “adjectives”. There are endless lists out there on the web. Here’s two that I found:

Keep and Share

A good basic list of adjectives that has been divided into topics.

Daily Writing Tips

This website for writers has flashier options, including the fabulous “crapulous” (which contrary to my first instinct appears to mean “immoderate in appetite”). Be a little careful with some of the more unusual adjectives.

You want the audience seamlessly scaling, not reaching for a dictionary.


  1. There was some psychology study that showed that size of a person’s vocabulary is inversely proportional to their likelihood to use violence. Can’t remember the source, but the subsequent experiments worked in prisons to expand vocabulary – leading to less violence in the prisons. Learn more words!!!

    • I can imagine how not being able to express yourself through having a lack of words might well lead someone to express themselves with their fists instead. “Words or Fists” It should be an education manifesto. Fists of words!

  2. peterbillingham707 says:

    Auxesis and Meiosis – new terms to me, thanks for an interesting post. It’s amazing how a single word can have such a significant impact. Very useful tips for public speaking/speech writing. Great caveat or should I say words of wisdom at the end! 🙂 Thanks Peter.

    • Words and word choices are so incredibly fascinating in their effects. A cross between literature, a Hogwarts book of magic spells, and a science project I think! Thanks for your comment Peter 🙂

  3. Is there a connection between personality type and their preference for Auxesis and Meiosis? From my exhaustive study of the subject, it seems there may be…. 😉

    • You’re right Gavin. Your research is correct and there might just well be a connection in there. 🙂

      I think when auxesis and meiosis are used unconsciously they reveal someone’s inclination to minimise or maximise. A minimiser peppers their with “just”, “tiny”, “small”, or “little”. Maximisers head in the opposite direction.

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