Emotive Language

Emotive language means using specific word choices to evoke an emotional reaction from the reader. It’s a common technique used in novels, poetry, and other forms of literature. However, emotive language is also used in non-fiction writing, including newspaper articles.

What is Emotive Language in English?

Emotive language is used when word choices evoke an emotional response in the reader.

This language often aims to convince the reader or listener to share the writer or speaker’s POV, using language explicitly chosen to stimulate an emotional reaction.

Uses of Emotive Language

Since we now know the answer to ‘what is emotive language in English?’, let’s explore how writers might use it.

Emotive language can be used in several ways. You’ll find examples of emotive language in spoken language, such as:

  • speeches
  • spoken word performances
  • public addresses
  • debates
  • everyday conversation

It’s also often used in creative or fictional writing to give the reader a dynamic and engaging experience. This technique is common in:

  • novels
  • poetry
  • short stories
  • plays

Emotive language can also be used in non-fiction writing, such as:

  • biographies
  • newspaper articles
  • opinion pieces
  • personal blogs

Examples of Emotive Language

To help us to answer the question of ‘what is emotive language in English?’ in a bit more detail, we need the help of a few examples. First, the following is taken from a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of formerly enslaved people and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”

This speech includes some examples of emotive language. For instance:

  • The phrase ‘I have a dream uses personal pronouns, inviting those listening to share in King’s vision of a better world. This phrase is repeated emphatically throughout the speech.
  • ‘Brotherhood’ is an abstract noun – a word describing an idea or concept. King uses this emotive phrase to appeal to the audience’s desire for the things that ‘brotherhood’ represents – acceptance, equality, and community.
  • King also uses metaphorical language, describing the state of Mississippi as ‘sweltering’ with injustice and describing the calm ‘oasis’ of freedom that it could be. Using sensory descriptions of heat helps to illustrate the difficulty of the struggle for civil rights, as well as reminding his audience what they are striving for. This section of the speech is intended to motivate civil rights activists to keep protesting for their rights.

Just from this one short extract, we can see how specific word choices contribute to the overall meaning of the speech and encourage people to embrace his message.

Emotive Words

But now that we know the answer to ‘what is emotive language in English?’, we must understand which words and adjectives have an emotional impact. Some words evoke a strong emotional reaction in most readers or listeners. They hold a certain weight that is hard to ignore.

  • Adjectives – appalling, wonderful, magical, and tragic.
  • Abstract Nouns – freedom, pride, justice, love, and terror.
  • Verbs – destroyed, vindicated, saved, betrayed, and adored.
  • Emotive Adverbs – angrily, defiantly, proudly, and beautifully.

Emotive Adverbs

Adverbs are words that modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb. They can be used to describe how something was said or how an action was done, which makes them valuable tools within emotive language.

Adverbs can also describe the specifics of action, such as adverbs of degree, which tell the reader how strongly something had happened, or adverbs of frequency, which depict how often something was done.

  • Lazily.
  • Brilliantly.
  • Happily.
  • Proudly.
  • Stupidly.
  • Completely.
  • Wholly.

Wordiness and the problem with emotive adverbs

One crucial qualifier with adverbs is that they can sometimes be redundant. For example, which of these sentences do you think is more emotive?

  • ‘James ran quickly home.’
  • ‘James raced home.’

Although emotive adverbs easily inject emotion into writing, one word can sometimes be more punchy!

Tone Within Writing

These emotive adverbs can drastically alter the tone of writing, as they will make the opinions and perspectives of the writer clear to the reader.

Tone can also be affected by the use of low or high-modality words. For example, the phrase ‘you will never be a singer’ is much more impactful than saying ‘you might not be a singer’. Once again, the use of emotive adverbs, adjectives, and verbs can make a massive difference to the meaning of a piece of writing.

Choose your Reaction!