English Mistakes in Advertising

Advertising Signs

Native English speakers make mistakes not just in conversation, but in advertising for businesses. Remember, even prominently-displayed examples of English grammar can sometimes contain errors!


Wrong word forms

This campaign for an international women’s brand included this tagline:

You’ve never seen body’s like this!

This is the singular possessive form of body, but the intent is clear that they were trying to refer to multiple bodies. To make the word plural, it should have read:

You’ve never seen bodies like this!


Using quotation marks for emphasis

Quotation marks have a variety of uses in English. In addition to signaling quoted text, quotation marks can indicate that a word is a translation from another language or that a word or phrase is a specialized term. Quotation marks cannot be used to add emphasis to a word, because often they are used to hint that a word does not actually mean what it would normally mean. Consider the following example from a local business:

Try our new “fresh” juices!

The person who wrote this probably intended to emphasize the organic nature of the smoothie. However, the use of quotation marks could be interpreted as meaning that the smoothie is not truly organic. To avoid this potential misunderstanding, the writer should have used underlined or bold text instead:

 Try our new fresh juices!

Try our new fresh juices!


“Less” as a count noun

English has both count and non-count nouns. Count nouns are used when you can list the quantity of something. For example, you can say that you own two cars. Non-count nouns are used for nouns you can’t express a quantity of, like groups. For instance, you can say that there is more traffic in Atlanta on Fridays than there is on Tuesdays. In other words, count nouns express quantity and non-count nouns express degree.

Many and fewer are count nouns. More and less are non-count nouns. 

Consider this ad run by a popular car company in 2013:

More power. More style. More technology. Less doors.

Should they have used less or fewer? Since there is a limited number of doors on a car, a count noun should have been used here.

More power. More style. More technology. Fewer doors.


Ads are not the only misusers of count and non-count nouns. In spite of these rules, most American supermarkets label their express checkout lanes as being for customers with “10 items or less” or “15 items or less.” The express lane sign is an example of a grammatical error that is so widespread that it has become a fixed phrase. Remember, don’t use “less” with a number unless you are talking about the express lane at your local supermarket!