Words journalists use that people never say

Bob Ingrassia, a blogger and journalist wrote a column about how the words used in journalism are never used when we talk in regular conversation.  He gives some examples of newspaper jargon used in a home setting.  Here are a few:

Newspaper:  “Police arrested a 22-year-old St. Paul man Sunday in connection with the death of another man, apparently after an altercation.”

Journo Dad: “I don’t want you kids getting into an altercation over who goes first.”

Newspaper: “A high-ranking Minneapolis police officer who was caught up in an internal corruption probe has filed a lawsuit against the department.”

Journo Dad: “Time to launch a probe into that missing Halloween candy.”

He suggests simpler terms for journalists:

  • fled on foot = ran away
  • discharged the weapon = shot
  • incendiary device = bomb
  • respond to the scene = arrive
  • intoxicated = drunk
  • arrived at a decision = decided
  • controlled substances = drugs
  • appendages = arms, legs

Read all about it


9 thoughts on “Words journalists use that people never say”

  1. alleged – everyone saw him do it, but not convicted yet

    I trust bloggers news far more than newspaper or tv journalist now.

  2. I prefer the “words nobody uses”. But really, I’m sure they use them for warm fuzzy sense of superiority the comes with a larger vocabulary. Why would you take that joy from them?

  3. I’ve always wondered who taught these so-called “news people” how to speak English. Where do they come up with these words? People don’t speak like that, as your post illustrates quite well.
    By the way…as a person proud of his Irish roots (and boy, I’m sure this’ll probably piss a few people off!), “incendiary device” is not synonymous with “a bomb”. You can have an incendiary, and you can have an explosive. And you can have a bomb, which is generally considered and explosive. But an incendiary is different, it’s meant to burn or to start fires…like a Molotov cocktail.

    Oh, the things you learn at IRA summer camp (man! Those black ski masks were horrible in August!). 😉

  4. I use those words. A hundred years ago, American newspaper editors followed the unofficial guideline “If they don’t have to use a dictionary to read the paper, it’s not worth reading.” Newspapers were a vocabulary exercise. A lot of fiction did the same, and we ended up with books full of big words that took forever to say anything important. Then came Hemingway and Steinbeck. Their philosophy was “I want people to be able to read and enjoy what I write.” Which is great. I love books that are easy on the eyes.

    Here’s the problem. I have students who are preparing for national standardized English tests. The vocabulary in these tests is equivalent to US university level vocabulary. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of places to READ that vocabulary anymore. All I can tell them is “Read academic journals. Read these particular news magazines. Don’t bother reading fiction or popular magazines because you won’t find any of these words in there. If you want to read fiction, you’ll have to go back and read stuff written before Hemingway, because after Hemingway, everybody wanted to write like Hemingway.”

  5. “Journalists” also use phrases like:

    “officials tell us…”
    “according to sources…”
    “we can’t confirm the fact that…”
    “the details aren’t clear, but…”

    “news” takes a few seconds/minutes to report, but speculation can go on for hours/days. And THAT is what cable “news” is today.

    But the babes are getting hotter.

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