In the last post, I discussed statements of fact as opposed to statements of opinion. I showed a famous example of the persuasive power of statements of fact: an ad that David Ogilvy wrote for Rolls-Royce.
Soon after publishing that post, while shopping for a winter hat, I saw a product tag that neatly made the same point from the opposite direction. The tag, attached to a wool hat made by Pugs Gear® Apparel, contained the following eight statements (capitalization as in original):
POPULAR FAVORITES in WINTER APPAREL
Pugs Gear® Apparel is manufactured to the highest industry standards.
Attention to every detail...
...means long-lasting comfort and fit.
pugs gear® takes the bite out of the cold!Seven and one-half of these eight statements are statements of opinion, not statements of fact.
“POPULAR FAVORITES in WINTER APPAREL” (a verb is implied) is a statement of opinion. The adjective “popular” is not quantified and therefore the statement is unverifiable. If the statement had been, for example, “the most popular winter hats” or “chosen by 64 percent of shoppers” it would have been a statement of fact, verifiable as true or false.
Likewise, “Stylish Design” (a verb is implied) is a statement of opinion, not a statement of fact. The adjective “stylish” is subjective and therefore the statement is unverifiable.
The same goes for “Quality Construction.”
“Pugs Gear® Apparel is manufactured to the highest industry standards” may be a statement of fact. It depends on whether the standards themselves are objectively stated.
“Attention to every detail...” (a verb is implied) is a statement of opinion. Although it is conceivably possible to specify and define every detail, attention is too subjective a word. In contrast, Mr. Ogilvy spoke of “60 miles an hour,” “the loudest noise,” “seven hours,” “full throttle,” “stethoscope,” and “Espresso coffee-making machine.” These are objective, highly specific words and phrases.
Likewise, “...means long-lasting comfort and fit” is a statement of opinion. How long is “long-lasting”? How comfortable is “comfort”?
The claim “pugs gear® takes the bite out of the cold!” is a figurative way of saying “pugs gear® makes the cold tolerable (or painless).” The benefit is subjectively stated and therefore this claim is a statement of opinion, not a statement of fact.
The slogan “pugs® driven” is meaningless rhetoric (as are many slogans), and therefore is no better than a statement of opinion. If the company had said, “This product was made by pugs gear®,” it would have been a clear statement of fact (verifiable). But it would probably have made the reader think, “So what? I guessed that by the company name on the tag.”
The Takeaway: There is nothing inherently wrong with using statements of opinion. However, when you are writing to persuade, you should strive to include a lot of statements of fact. Statements of fact command the reader’s attention.