Danger: emotive language alert

Emotive language is nearly always what gets you noticed in an interview – so handle with care. Words like ‘disaster’, ‘scandal’, ‘terror’ and so on look dramatic in headlines, and are nearly always picked out by reporters in preference to blander fare. Mayor of London Boris Johnson – no slouch at the ‘quotable quote’ – presumably knew what he was doing when, talking on BBC radio about the forthcoming housing benefit cuts – said he would “not accept any kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London” if benefit claimants could no longer afford to live in wealthier areas. Rather than prophesying such a shift, he was actually making the point that this would not happen ‘on his watch’. However the quote inevitably dominated the following morning’s headlines and was seen as a ‘warning’ of what might be likely to occur. This certainly had the (desired?) effect of considerably annoying 10 Downing Street, even though Boris later tried to claim the remarks had been taken out of context. These quotes will almost certainly come back to haunt the Mayor – and like Polly Toynbee’s inappropriate talk of the policy as a ‘final solution’ for the problem of the poor, will be there, referenced online, forever. The lesson is clear – ensure any emotive language you use is there to make the point you want to make – not something that just happens to come out in the interview, which you will never be able to un-say.