Know What Words Mean

I’ll leave it to you lot for posting hopeful messages about the New Year and all that lovely business, your words likely accompanied by pretty nature scenes or something. Well done. Cheers. I’m going to close out 2013 in typical cantankerous fashion, however, with one final gripe about bad writing. You wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?

winter warlock

In the futile quest to fill the bottomless pit that is the Internet with content, web sites crank out material faster than staff writers and freelancers can think about what they are writing. And when you don’t think about what you are writing, you fall back on rote terms and clichéd expressions. Rote terms and clichéd expressions = rubbish.*

*Sorry, I’ve been watching BBC shows all night and am feeling rather English.  I’m 1/8, you know. Chap.

Today’s example is brought to you by all the writers who reported this week that Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts “officially” came out as gay. I must have read that word in over twenty headlines on various entertainment and news sites: Officially.

Robin Roberts came out as gay by mentioning her girlfriend on a Facebook post.

Folks, “officially” does not mean “in public.” Unless we apply special settings, every Facebook comment, blog post, and tweet—from every one of us—is public. Facebook comments can also be called informal. “Informal” and “official” are not alike at all. Since Ms. Roberts never used the words, “I’m gay,” and we are left with mere implication via context, I’d say she unofficially came out. Even the most skeptical of you should agree with me that “unofficial” and “official” are most certainly not synonyms.

For her statement to be official, Robin Roberts would have to be an elected or appointed government official, a bank, a corporation, law-enforcement organization, or a publicly owned or funded entity or agency issuing a formal statement. You could also get away with reporting, for example, that an athlete “officially” announced her retirement if she does so through a public statement or a press conference, though the o-word is at the very least redundant in that scenario, since “announced” is sufficient.

A Facebook post from an individual hinting at something through context is none of those things.

Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled merriment. Good day to you.

Bah Humbug.

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