Weasel Words: What are they, and how should you use them?
Updated: Sep 14
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘weasel’? Fast, sleek, always able to escape? Weasel words fit two of those three adjectives – their speakers use ambiguous words that make them sleek and able to escape responsibility for their statements.
Who can you think of that uses such language? That’s right – political figures spend a lot of time in front of the microphone sharing what seem at first to be profound statements and specific facts, whereas, when broken down, their words turn out to be ambiguous, unclear or downright misleading. Let’s look at some examples.
“Researchers believe that an increase in Vitamin D supplementation will prevent COVID-19.” Who are these researchers? How many of them believe this? What is their belief based on - studies? How big were these studies and what methodology did they follow? How many researchers are of the opposite opinion?
“Many people like this product.” How many? Are they of the same age group? From the same company? From the same country? What do they like about it? How do they use it? If they like it, do they buy it or just admire it from afar?
“We use cutting-edge technology.” So does everybody else; it is what defines the 21st century. What is it about your cutting-edge technology that makes it special? Does the fact that it is cutting-edge contribute in any way to the service you offer? How is that going to help me, the end consumer?
You might feel that using weasel words like the above makes you sound official and well-informed, but in actual fact such wording often detracts from your believability. A careful listener will weasel those words out and conclude that they are better off listening to someone else. It is best for you to use them sparingly.
What are some weasel words you hear often? Comment below to share your experience with us!