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Weasel Words

 

Techniques > Use of language > Modifying meaning > Weasel Words

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Method

Use 'weasel words' to modify statements, weakening any real meaning or force. This allows you to say anything without offending anyone or putting yourself into danger of being contradicted.

Use weasel words assertively and their weakness will often all but disappear (it's not what you say but how you say it).

Weasel words give you a way out, should anyone criticize you or make any counter-claim.

Weasel words include:

  • Helps, supports, is useful (friendly, but no real value added)
  • Better, improved, gains (does not say how much)
  • Acts, works, effective, efficient (action, but no quantitative value)
  • Seems, appears, looks, is like (gives impression, not real change)
  • Many, most, virtually, almost all ('lots' but no real quantity)
  • Up to, from, at least, as many as (talk about the best case)

Example

Zokko toothpaste combats oral bacteria. (combats, but does not necessarily win)

I could come with you. (on the other hand, I might not)

Books from as little as... (best case description)

Discussion

Weasel words are designed to give the appearance of truth whilst protecting the speaker from attack or legal redress. They are very common in advertising and marketing, where the goal is to attract people rather than ask them to think deeply about something.

Weasels suck out the eggs of birds through a small hole, leaving the egg appearing intact, but of course now having no real value.

See also

Floppy language

 

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