Journalese

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Journalese is the artificial or hyperbolic, and sometimes over-abbreviated, language regarded as characteristic of the news style used in popular media. Joe Grimm, formerly of the Detroit Free Press, likened journalese to a "stage voice": "We write journalese out of habit, sometimes from misguided training, and to sound urgent, authoritative and, well, journalistic. But it doesn't do any of that."

Criticism[edit]

Some people regard journalism with amusement as an often colourful use of language.[1] It is partly due to the need for brevity, particularly in headlines, and can therefore serve a useful purpose.[2]

However, one critic says that "lazy writing goes with lazy thought", and it is often a mark of a weak story with poor evidence or an attempt to dress up something as more significant or interesting: "Journalese is like a poker player's tell: it shows that the reporter knows the story is flimsy and he or she is trying to make it appear more solid."[1]

Other critics fault the use of the passive voice and similar constructions in journalese as a form of weasel wording that a writer chooses "to hide the culprit" of the action that the writer is describing.[3]

Subeditors (copy editors) on newspapers are trained to remove it, and the New York Times even has a customised spell-checker that flags particularly egregious examples.[4]

Examples[edit]

  • "The governor Thursday announced ..." (date used as adverb)
  • "The Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of John F. Kennedy ..." (date used as adjective)
  • "Mean streets and densely wooded areas populated by ever-present lone gunmen ..."
  • "Negotiators yesterday, in an eleventh-hour decision following marathon talks, hammered out agreement on a key wage provision they earlier had rejected." (multiple mixed metaphors)
  • See "a bus plunged into a gorge" for a common type of gap-filler article.
  • "Calls this morning for tighter restrictions on the sale of alcohol to immigrants."
  • "Whoosh ... whoosh ... whoosh ... ka-boooom. That's the way it was at Wanganui's Cooks Gardens, for about 15 minutes on Saturday night." (onomatopoeia, and genitive of placename instead of preposition)
  • "Rioting and mayhem ..." (this sort of example has led to popular misunderstanding, causing the legal term "mayhem" to change its main meaning in everyday usage)
  • "Attack" to mean "criticise", because it typesets into less space in headlines. This may cause ambiguity if a physical or military attack is possible between the parties named. "Slam" and "blast" are also used this way.
  • "Foes ink pact", "Cops nab crooks after heist", "The new station is slated to open ..." (rare or archaic words chosen over more commonly used words in order to save space)
  • "The 1990s saw an increase in crime" (use of "saw", and consequent anthropomorphization, to avoid using the past tense of "increase", as in "Crime increased in the 1990s")
  • "Funnyman" as a synonym for a comedian or other light entertainer
  • "Quizzed" used to mean "questioned"

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hutton, Robert. "Journalese is like a poker player's tell: it shows when a story is flimsy". New Statesman. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  2. ^ Collins, Lauren (November 4, 2013). "Mother Tongue". The New Yorker.
  3. ^ "The weasel voice in journalism, The Economist, May 26, 2018
  4. ^ Corbett, Philip B. "Fluent in Journalese". New York Times.

Further reading[edit]


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