Journalese (1893- ) is that strange sort of English news reporters use. No ordinary person talks like that, but you see it all the time in news articles. It started in 1890s and became common by the 1930s. It is best avoided, even (or especially) if you write the news.
- 11th-hour deal – not one of those 8th-hour deals.
- ailing president
- bullets – when silver or magic.
- charm offensive
- countries – when troubled, war-torn or oil-rich.
- debates – when heated, bitter or stirred.
- decisions – when ground-breaking, landmark or watershed.
- dictators – when brutal, ruthless or tinpot.
- high-profile case
- key – sounds more important than “important”.
- knifed – because “stab” is so 1800s.
- major players
- manicured lawns
- marathon session
- mysteries – when they surround or deepen.
- not a panacea
- only one thing is certain
- perfect storm
- potentially fatal
- set to
- sharp rise
- significant development – because this is not one of those insignificant developments that we report too.
- slayed – instead of “killed” or “murdered”.
- sporadic gunfire
- the bottom line
- the likes of
- thumbs up
- too close to call – because no election is merely “close”.
- uneasy peace
- well-placed insider – as opposed to the not-so-well-placed insiders.
- wily political operator – as opposed to the unwily kind.
- window of opportunity – not the back door of opportunity.
Headline language: favours
- short words (bid, leak, probe, axe, hike, quiz, swap, slash, cash, pact, slam, aid, ban, cut, push, wed, etc),
- stacked-up nouns (“Baby heart swap drama”),
- the word “to” to show future tense (“Premier to defy unions”).
Words like “the”, “be”, “was”, etc, are dropped where possible (“Cook Manuscript Stolen”).
Copspeak: Some journalese is in fact copspeak, picked up from the police:
- declined to
- discharged his weapon
- fled at a high rate of speed
- fled on foot
- fled the scene
- involved in
- officer-involved shooting
- sustained (injuries),
- tag (for licence plate),
US propaganda terms abound, at least in the US press:
- alt-right – White nationalists.
- bulk collection – mass surveillance.
- collateral damage – civilian deaths.
- Department of Defence – fights imperialistic wars.
- enhanced interrogation – torture.
- free press – capitalist press.
- human rights abuses – never seem to take place in the US.
- international law – never seems to be broken by the US.
- populism – White nationalism.
- quantitative easing – printing money.
- regime – a government disliked by the US.
- regime change – ovethrowing a government disliked by the US.
- retired general – mouthpiece for the military industrial complex. Unlike NASCAR drivers, they do not wear the labels of their sponsors.
- surgical strike – a bombing in which up to 25 innocent people might be killed (make that more than 25 under President Trump).
- terrorists – non-state actors whose violence the US sees as threatening, especially those who kill White people. Otherwise they are called freedom fighters, rebels, shooters, lone wolves, etc.
- values voters – those who vote against their class interests.
- War on Drugs – War on Black people.
- War on Terror – War of Terror.
- White Evangelical Protestants – racist White Southerners.
– Abagond, 2017.
Sources: Makia Freeman (2016), New York Times (2015), The Telegraph (2013), the English usage guides of Oxford (2008), Cambridge (2004) and Fowler’s (1998), and the style guide for The Economist (2017).
- style guide
- usage and style guides