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Consider the difference between the following sentences:

"The charlatan beguiled his way into her good graces."

and

"The man ingratiated himself with her."

They both describe approximately the same actions, but one uses words transparently intended to evoke a particular feeling. Additional examples of leading sentences might include, "This is obviously nonsense, to anyone possessing a brain." vs "The claim is currently unsubstantiated.". (The exact equivalence of those two statements is debatable, but hopefully demonstrates the difference in tone I am trying to highlight.)

It seems to me that the addition of descriptive words such as "foolish", "stunning", or "marvelous" rarely adds objective information, but rather attempts to color the writing with the author's subjective opinion. Similarly with opinionated non-adjective words, such as "fraud", "genius", or "boondoggle". One would therefore expect these to be common in sensationalist journalism, but scarce in academic literature.

Is there a word or phrase which describes these words? Or at least the use thereof? "Loaded terms", or possibly "leading words", are close, but they both seem more subtle than the blatant emotional arm-twisting I'm asking about. A sentence including the word or phrase I desire might look like: "Your paper would have been improved by the removal of the many loaded terms you used, favoring instead a more clinical analysis." If either of the two above are the best candidate, so be it, but I'm hoping for a word or phrase that more accurately conveys the abandonment of any subtlety in favor of either ham-fisted vitriol or honey-glazed acclamations.

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  • The first two example sentences aren't just different in tone, I think they're different in meaning. Or the first sentence has a much more specific meaning anyway, in that it implies dishonest behaviour and shady intentions, whereas the second sentence has no inherent negative implications. – nnnnnn Aug 14 at 7:05
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    Bias probably covers it, i. e. where a desired reader response is baked into the vocabulary. Of course now I am hungry for a baked, honey-glazed ham… – KarlG Aug 14 at 9:14
  • "Loaded" is itself a fairly loaded term. If you want a term that you can use to critique someone else's work then maybe "emotive" might be a good substitute. – Ciaran Haines Aug 14 at 15:48
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    I think you've used the word yourself. The writing is sensationalist. I'd be happy with the phrase 'sensationalist terms', though 'sensationalist words' doesn't sound very idiomatic. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 14 at 18:27
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This looks very much like the description of a loaded question to me, albeit in statement form. A loaded question can easily convey something that is "emotional arm-twisting." In fact, it often does. So, I don't find loaded terms to be inappropriate. (Although, perhaps, the reverse had been meant, and the question is actually talking more about omitting subtle adjectives.)

From Wikipedia:

A loaded question or complex question is a question that contains a controversial or unjustified assumption (e.g., a presumption of guilt).

Aside from being an informal fallacy depending on usage, such questions may be used as a rhetorical tool: the question attempts to limit direct replies to be those that serve the questioner's agenda. The traditional example is the question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Whether the respondent answers yes or no, he will admit to having a wife and having beaten her at some time in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy of many questions has been committed. The fallacy relies upon context for its effect: the fact that a question presupposes something does not in itself make the question fallacious. Only when some of these presuppositions are not necessarily agreed to by the person who is asked the question does the argument containing them become fallacious. Hence the same question may be loaded in one context, but not in the other. For example, the previous question would not be loaded if it were asked during a trial in which the defendant had already admitted to beating his wife.


Note the a simpler, single, word, one used in that article, might also meet your needs: presupposition.

From presuppose:

[Merriam-Webster]
1 : to suppose beforehand
2 : to require as an antecedent in logic or fact

So, your sentence could be:

Your paper would have been improved by the removal of the many presuppositions you used, favoring instead a more clinical analysis.


In short, loaded phrases is appropriate for "emotional arm-twisting," while presuppositions might be more appropriate for subtle adjectives or neutral (yet still subjective) phrases.

  • Still the only answer, and I have no strong reason to suppose there IS a better answer, so I'll go with it; thanks. – Erhannis yesterday

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