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Hey, business owners. We’re pretty sure you’re already aware that customer reviews can shape your online reputation. But before you try to remove bad reviews of your business, it might be a good idea to check the language first.

Is the review rude and harsh? Okay: you can follow these tips.

Or is the review polite? Does it seem like it was written by a well-mannered person? Because if it is, the bad review might not have as damaging an effect as you think.

It might even boost your sales.

According to a new study published on the Journal of Consumer Research, a bad review that is offset by the politeness with which it was written can actually help you sell more.

(Check out: “Key Metrics for Measuring Online Reputation”)

In a study titled “We’ll Be Honest, This Won’t Be the Best Article You’ll Ever Read: The Use of Dispreferred Markers in Word-of-Mouth Communication,” authors Ryan Hamilton, Kathleen Vohs, and Ann McGill conducted a series of experiments to examine how a marker of politeness used in a negative review can alter the effect the review has on the product being reviewed as well as on brand perception.

Politeness markers include “I’ll be honest,” “I don’t want to be mean, but…” and other similar phrases. These serve to soften the blow, so to speak, warning the review readers (and the business owner) that some negative sentiment is about to be expressed.

But don’t worry, the researchers say. Results from one of the experiments showed that people were still willing to pay more for products/services whose reviews included a marker of politeness. Results also showed that polite reviews tend to enhance the perception of a given brand as more honest, cheerful, down-to-earth, and wholesome than brands whose reviews didn’t have politeness markers.

“Our research raises the intriguing possibility that brands might benefit when polite customers write reviews of their products, even when those reviews include negative opinions,” write the authors.

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.


  1. Amanda

    Negative reviews should always be used as an opportunity for improvement. I polite review gives you the chance to have a polite response and highlight what your business and it strengths. Constructive criticism is a learning opportunity and one that a business should capitalize on