Themes > Marketing > The language of advertising
The language of advertising

Language has a powerful influence over people and their behaviour. This is especially true in the fields of marketing and advertising. The choice of language to convey specific messages with the intention of influencing people is vitally important.

Visual content and design in advertising have a very great impact on the consumer, but it is language that helps people to identify a product and remember it.

The English language is known for its extensive vocabulary. Where many other languages have only one or two words which carry a particular meaning, English may have five or six.

Moreover, the meanings of these five or six words may differ very slightly and in a very subtle way. It is important to understand the connotation of a word. Connotation is the feeling or ideas that are suggested by a word, rather than the actual meaning of the word. Armchair, for example, suggests comfort, whereas chair arouses no particular feelings.

The target audience, of course, also puts its own meaning into certain words. Different people sometimes interpret language in different ways.

Both the mass media, when reporting news items, and marketing and advertising personnel have to consider the emotive power of the words they use. First, they make a decision about what to communicate and what to withhold.

One way in which advertisers adapt language to their own use is to take compound words and use them as adjectives. These compounds often later become widely used in normal situations. Examples of these compounds which have become part of the English language are: top-quality, economy-size, chocolate-flavoured, feather-light and longer-lasting.

The language of advertising is, of course, normally very positive and emphasizes why one product stands out in comparison with another. Advertising language may not always be "correct" language in the normal sense. For example, comparatives are often used when no real comparison is made. An advertisement for a detergent may say "It gets clothes whiter", but whiter than what?

A study of vocabulary used in advertising listed the most common adjectives and verbs in order of frequency. They are:



1. new 1. make
2. good/better/best 2. get
3. free 3. give
4. fresh 4. have
5. delicious 5. see
6. full 6. buy
7. sure 7. come
8. clean 8. go
9. wonderful 9. know
10. special 10. keep
11. crisp 11. look
12. fine 12. need
13. big 13. love
14. great 14. use
15. real 15. feel
16. easy 16. like
17. bright 17. choose
18. extra 18. take
19. safe 19. start
20. rich 20. taste
Good and new were over twice as popular as any other adjective.


1. Find a word in the text which means an especially strong or powerful influence or effect.
2. Find a word in the text which means delicate, not easy to notice.
3. Can you think of any products which could be described as economy-sized?
4. Can you think of any other compound adjectives that could be used in advertising?
5. Look at number 11 on the list of adjectives. What kind of products could be described as crisp?



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