Language and Media

Taking a closer look at language in advertising

  • loaded language/piece of writing
  • “written tone of voice” (sarcastic, serious, colloquial) based on reader
  • aim: attract attention
  • sentences usually simply constructed and short
  • imperative clause used frequently
  • prospective customer continually adressed: “Try this today”, “Buy that”, “Discover X”, “Find out about Y”, “Ask for this”
  • grammar abreviated and disjointed

Key Words

  • “sprinkling” of adverbs and adjectives (=key parts of advertising)
  • adjectives and adverbs = trigger words because they can **stimulate envy, dreams and desires by evoking looks, touch, taste, smell and sounds

In 1966, Geoffrey Leech, a Professor of Linguistics and Modern English Language at Lancaster University, tried to sample frequency of the vocabulary used in advertising.

He conducted a study called English in Advertising: A Linguistic Study of Advertising in Great Britain (1966).

Follow the link to take a look at the most common adjectives and verbs in order of frequency in GB at the time:

Did you find anything striking about this list?

  • “New” is the advertising writer´s most favorite adjective. It is used in connection with almost every type of product or service.
  • Some adjectives and adverbs have even been coined for the occasion and have no value in standard English: “tomatoful”, “teenfresh”, “flavoursome”, ”cookability”
  • slogans sometimes made by joining adjective with noun or adjective with adjective: “Inside this jar you´ll find a radiantly-glowing skin, naturally-blushed cheeks, wondrous eyes and color-kissed lips. Suddenly your skin has a sun-kissed glow.” (ad taken from an American magazine)
  • These adjectival compounds seem to suggest that the product has a special feature which only it posesses.
  • Adjectival compounds are created to give uniqueness, vigor and impact to the advertising message.
  • Sometimes the product´s name is incorporated with other words: “Knorr-fresh”,”Afiordable”(holidays in Norway),”Give your feet a Scholliday”
  • Another favorite device of copy-writers: spell words wrongly in order to attract attention: “Beanz Meanz Heinz”, “Drinka Pinta Milka Day” (infinite article and conjunction fuse with noun and verb)
  • emotional/poetic use of words; tendency to treat intangible entities as if they were living creatures: “Drink a masterpiece.”, “It speaks freedom and friendliness”, ”Creamy soft brilliance to bloom tenderly on your lips”, ”After-shave cologne with the sharp, crisp tang of action as well as the smooth undertones of elegant charm”


  • language can be used to signify the product directly through calligraphy, i.e. the product of an ad can be made to be its language (e.g. when the word “KITCAT” is made up of pictures of the bar of chocolate wafer biscuit)
  • additional language is not needed because the product speaks for itself