Does your company’s light beer contain “less calories” than your competitors’ brews? Do nutritionists recommend your breakfast cereal as “part of a healthy diet?” Will your pain medication provide relief to people “inflicted with arthritis?”
If your marketing copy contains any of those claims, you’re guilty of false advertising—from a word usage standpoint, that is.
Many copywriting mistakes have little to do with grammar and everything to do with choosing the wrong words. While word choice might seem arbitrary to some copywriters, improper usage can alter an advertisement’s meaning—and change a grammatically literate consumer’s opinion about your brand.
“Careful users of language will make distinctions; careless users of language will blur them.” –The Chicago Manual of Style
Let’s consider our examples above. Your light beer should contain fewer calories, not less, than other beers. Use fewer for plural nouns that are countable (i.e., fewer calories, fewer people, fewer votes); use less for singular nouns (less fat, less money, less noise).
Someone in good health is healthy. Something that promotes good health is healthful. Therefore, market your breakfast cereal as beneficial to a “healthful diet.”
Bad things are inflicted on people or things (arthritis inflicts pain). Those who suffer from arthritis are afflicted with—or afflicted by—the disease.
Carefully choosing words ensures that you imply the proper marketing message. And that raises another usage example: remember, the copywriter implies a meaning; the reader infers it.