Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Commercial language

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It is usually obvious when someone has written a text to inform his readers and when to convince them to do something—and in the latter case, the readers tend to be loath to comply. Whether these “convincing” texts bring a net benefit will depend on the readers’ intelligence, education, and experience; but I note that ad writers (and writers of “corporate” texts) naively tend use the same cheap language tricks irrespective of target group—in particular, failing to consider that many of the readers will be smarter than the ad writers themselves are…

This type of writing seems to be spreading further and further, even be it in a less intrusive form than in advertising. Nevertheless, this increase in self-serving language is an annoyance, while, in fact, serving no-one: On the contrary, I fear that it reflects a lack of humility and self-perspective (or may, conversely, affect thinking).

For instance, in my recent exploration of free (legal) sources of music, I found the following snippets on an overview page for the Internet Archivee:

muzic is proud to share their collection with the world in partnership with the Internet Archive.

Why “proud”? Any pride that could be relevant here is the type of pride to be avoided.

Download free recordings of classical music performed live in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Tapestry Room. These exclusive recordings from the museum’s regular concert series feature…

The first sentence uses an imperative—a big no-no. The second uses the word “exclusive”; which is not only ad language, but also hackneyed.

Listen to this collection of 78rpm records and cylinder recordings released in the early 20th century.

Imperative again.

RadiOM.org is a unique new music resource providing access to historical and contemporary material recorded over a fifty year-plus span.

“Unique” is another hackneyed ad word—and one that tends to be used untruthfully to an even higher degree than most others. In addition, the sentence as a whole gives a negative impression, e.g. by use of “providing access”. Consider instead:

RadiOM.org provides music recorded over the last fifty-plus years.

If these had been adverts in a newspaper, I would had said nothing, possibly even thought myself lucky; however, consider the context they were in.

Some articles on my website deal with similar topics, notably Idiocies of ad writing.

(For those unconvinced, consider whether the addition “I am proud to exclusive share this unique article with you. Read it NOW!” would increase or decrease your wish to read it.)

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Written by michaeleriksson

February 21, 2010 at 11:37 am

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