It makes sense that large companies set aside funds for advertising. Company ads don't have to be good to be noticed. They just have to be noticeable.
Ads that have received a great deal of traction lately have been for games. The ads won't reflect the reality of the gaming experience and they bait possible players saying things like, "Only people with an IQ higher than average can solve this." Whether the puzzle is actually difficult is irrelevant, but the language matters. Even the greatest of cynics might download the game.
The purpose of an advertisement is to somehow create a positive association between the target demographic and the advertised. People might know this intuitively, but might still be drawn in.
Ali Almossawi devoted his third chapter of An Illustrated Book of Loaded Language to examples of words or phrases commonly used in news headlines, press conferences, or even in grocery stores and what readers should question when reading it.
Here's an excellent example of something that people don't often think of: "Some manufacturers refer to their electric cars as sustainable, even though not everything about them is. The batteries, for instance, require mining the earth for rare elements. Half of the world's cobalt is used in batteries, and that number is expected only to increase in the decades to come" (Almossawi, 2021).
Companies will often seek out more sustainable practices or tout a product as being more sustainable, but the word on its own is vague. It's true that electric cars are more sustainable in a lot of ways, and for many, that's common knowledge. It's possible to be specific about the meaning of the too good to be true "sustainable" and leave out the risks.
A quick Google News search of "sustainable" shows that "North Platte Approves Support for Sustainable Beef Plant". By the heading alone, it wouldn't be unreasonable to determine that the beef plant has adopted different environmentally friendly practices, but upon reading the article, I see projected data and figures, but I don't see any clarification on how the beef plant is becoming more sustainable.
More sustainable living is possible and even desirable, but it's important to understand what it means in different contexts if we want to know what kind of difference we're making.
Another example that Almossawi gives is the term, "pacification," and I've seen enough nineties action and science fiction movies for that to have slightly sinister connotations. The definition of "pacification" is to return to a natural or peaceful state, so what went wrong?
People realized, whether through different types of media exposure or otherwise, that "pacify" has also been used to mean "to suppress," which has an even more eerie connotation. So, between "pacify" and "suppress," the latter is supposedly the lesser of the evils.
The words do hold the power in these situations, not because of what they are or what they literally mean, but because of how they are perceived, and Almossawi conveys that, not literally, but through each of the several examples in succession.
Does this chapter suffer for its examples?
Yes and no. Again, this is a book for readers to help them to become more discerning readers. It's a noble purpose. While this chapter offers excellent explanations for each example, some in greater detail than others, it also illustrates why having several examples in a row without intervention can detract from the larger purpose.
If the chapters that came before were structured in a similar way, it would be a very different book, but this chapter could use some more analysis and intervention if only because language that creates positive associations can be more difficult to analyze.
Examples can make writing a lot easier. Giving examples can bolster a point and make it more accessible unless the point is being structured solely by examples. In the previous chapters, I came away with a very direct takeaway beyond, "Look out for this language..."
If I hadn't spent a great deal of time looking for vague and loaded language intentionally, that would have been my takeaway as well. The examples are excellent, but it's important for Almossawi to be able to redirect and address his intentions, which I hope the next chapter will bring.
Thank you to everyone who has given feedback on Purposeful Prose so far!
For this chapter, I didn't have quite as much to say as I did for the other chapters, but regardless of my criticism, I still believe that this is a helpful guide. For everyone who wants to follow along, I do recommend purchasing An Illustrated Book of Loaded Language at your local independent bookstore or through Bookshop.org, where I will be purchasing my books from now on when possible. Proceeds from purchases made through this site go back to support local independent bookstores.
If you want to see more content from Purposeful Prose, join me on the Purposeful Prose LinkedIn page or you can become a site member! Site members can like posts, comment and join the conversation, or post on my forum.
I hope to have more to contribute next week, but for now, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Almossawi, A., & Giraldo, A. (2021). An Illustrated Book of Loaded Language: Learn to Hear What’s Left Unsaid (Bad Arguments). The Experiment.
Henderson, G. (2022, March 23). North Platte Approves Support for Sustainable Meat Plant. Drovers. https://www.drovers.com/news/industry/north-platte-approves-support-sustainable-beef-plant