Weasel Words and Misspellings in Marketing

Advertisers adopted the technique of using weasel words and misspellings in their business a long time ago. There are numerous reasons why it is an effective tactic that brings about impressive results.

According to an American linguist William Lutz, who conducted an extensive research of weasel words in advertisements, there are four main features of this phenomenon.

  1. Weasel words are implemented when people want to create an impression of a meaningful statement when in reality they say something vague and inconclusive. As a result, they cause a misleading effect for promoting their products.
  2. The most widespread weasel words and phrases are “experts claim that”, “virtually”, “works”, “award-winning”, “new and improved”, etc. In reality, these words bear no great meaning, give no actual statistics, and provide no names of “experts”, but at the same time they create a positive impression.
  3. If you take a moment and listen to or read an ad carefully, you are bound to notice a certain number of weasel words. The bigger the number is, the higher is the possibility that the message is misleading and fake.
  4. Weasel words can also have a form of unfinished words and sentences. When you see a sentence with three dots, your imagination immediately fills in the blank space with the desired word. You can’t even blame the advertisers, because your mind tricks you into believing in something that is not even there.

Once you are aware of the danger of the weasel words, you start noticing them everywhere. Almost every advertiser uses this technique to create a positive image of the advertised product without giving any factual description.

As far as misspellings are concerned, they also play a vital role in marketing. Based on the work of Alleen Pace Nilsen, who studied how big companies do not follow spelling rules, this behavior can be quite advantageous to the business.

First of all, a unique word can be made into a trademark while you obviously can’t do that with a correctly spelled word or a phrase. Secondly, in marketing, you have to pay for space, so shortening words by simplifying spelling is an easy way out. Finally, there is every likelihood that a misspelled word will stick in your mind and a phrase with a mistake in it will quickly become a catchphrase.


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