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COMMON PROBLEMS (in Chapter 4). These are some of the many words and terms commonly misused, misunderstood or mispronounced . accident : BE CAREFUL. Accidents happen all the time, but so do intentional acts. Don’t predetermine cause by a haphazard word choice.

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common problems in chapter 4

COMMON PROBLEMS(in Chapter 4)

These are some of the many words and terms commonly misused, misunderstood or mispronounced.

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accident: BE CAREFUL. Accidents happen all the time, but so do intentional acts. Don’t predetermine cause by a haphazard word choice.

  • ad hoc: Means for a specific purpose only. It’s redundant and wordy to say: The governor has just created an ad hoc committee to study the issue.Leave off ad hoc.
  • admit: BE CAREFUL. Other than meaning to grant entrance (a usage that should be avoided in broadcast because of its awkwardness), the word means to concede or confess and implies an acknowledgment of wrong- doing. Generally, limit use of admit to legal and quasi-legal issues where it’s clearly appropriate.
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alleged: in general, don’t use this word. See Chapter 5, “Phrases and Phrasing,” and the crime and legal section of Chapter 20.

  • alumna, alumnae, alumni, alumnus: Alumna refers to one woman graduate or former student of a specific institution; alumnae is the plural forwomen. Use alumnus for one male graduate or former student; alumni is plural for men and should be used as the plural for a group of men and women.
  • among, between: Generally, use among when something is in the midst of more than two people or things; use between when something is in the midst of two people or things.
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and/or: Don’t use this stilted expression in broadcast copy.

  • average, mean, median: Take the numbers 2, 6 and 7; the average is the total (15) divided by the number of items being totaled (3). The averagehere is 5. The mean is the same as the average, but use average because it’s more widely understood. The median is the middle figure in an ascending or descending series—in this case, 6. Generally, stick with averageand write around the others.
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because, since, as: Because shows a cause-and-effect relationship; sinceor as usually reflects a time relationship (one took place after the other), but the relationship is more indirect than cause and effect.

  • bi-, semi-: Unfortunately, depending on the source, bi- means either once every two or twice a. Those opposing meanings suggest that not using the prefix may be best in the interests of clarity. Semi- means half or twice a,but use the term only in a familiar context. (bi-annual, semi-annual)
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boat, ship: These terms are not synonymous. A boat is generally considered a small vessel, although ferryboats, PT boats and submarines are exceptions. Ships are larger, frequently oceangoing vessels.

  • bring, take: Bring involves transporting something to the speaker (here); take involves transporting it away from the speaker (there).
  • casualties: Includes dead and injured or sick.
  • cement, concrete: Cement and concrete are not the same. Cement powder is one of the ingredients in concrete.
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consensus: General majority agreement, but not unanimous. The phrase consensus of opinion is redundant.

  • continual, continuous: Continual means ongoing at intervals; continuousmeans ongoing without stop.
  • convince, persuade: Convince generally means inducing someone to believe something; persuade involves inducing someone to some action.
  • cop: Slang for police, police officer. Better to say police.
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crisis: Not every problem—or even every dangerous situation—is a crisis. Don’t overuse. Plural is crises (KRI seez).

  • currently: Currently means now. Presently means soon.
  • daylight saving time: Note that daylight saving time is singular. See more in Chapter 19, “Reporting: Seasonal Coverage and the Calendar.”
  • dialogue: An overused word that all too frequently replaces the simpler and more accurate talk.
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die, kill: All people eventually die; some people are killed. Use die when death results from natural causes.

  • drugs: this word has taken on the meaning of narcotics (illegal, controlled substances) and should generally not be used as a synonym for medicine.
  • elderly: BE CAREFUL. This may be viewed as negative or simply inappropriate. As healthcare improves, the age at which people are “elderly” gets older. If you use the term at all, limit its use to over 70 or even 75.
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emigrate, immigrate: Emigrate means to leave a country to settle elsewhere; immigrate means to enter a country from outside.

  • ensure, insure: Unless you’re speaking about insurance, the proper word is ensure—to guarantee, to make sure of.
  • execute: In the sense of dead, only governments, by virtue of law, can execute. Terrorists or individuals kill, assassinate or murder; they do not execute.
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February: Although difficult to pronounce properly, there are two r’s in February. See also library, hundred and nuclear.

  • fewer, less: Both mean the same, but fewer relates to numbers and lessrelates to amount, more abstract ideas, bulk numbers and singular nouns and pronouns. fewer dollars, less money.
  • figuratively, literally: Figuratively means like (as in a metaphor); literallymeans exactly.
  • Farther, further: In the U.S.,farther is more often used to refer to physical distances, and further more often refers to figurative and nonphysical distances.
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firefighter, fireman: Although common in usage, use the gender neutral term firefighter. If you wouldn’t say firewoman (and you wouldn’t), don’t say fireman.

  • flammable, inflammable: Both mean exactly the same thing—easily ignited—but use flammable because too many people think inflammable means the opposite of its correct definition.
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gay: This word’s only current usage relates to homosexuality, and it should be used as first reference.

  • ghetto: BE CAREFUL. This means a section of a city overwhelmingly inhabited by members of a minority group. The term also implies that a minority group has been forced to live in that section, so don’t use this term lightly.
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good, well: Good is almost always an adjective meaning well-done, worthy, kind and the like. Well is almost always an adverb meaning properly (except as an adjective meaning healthy).

  • gun: Acceptable term for any firearm.
  • half-mast, half-staff: What takes place in honoring the dead. Half-mast is for ships and naval stations; half-staff is on land.
  • Halley’s Comet: Currently accepted pronunciation is HAL (as in pal) eez, not HAIL eez.
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hang, hanged, hung: Everything hangs. People are or have been hanged; everything else has been hung.

  • hundred: Pronounced HUHN dred, not HUHN derd.
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illegal: BE CAREFUL. Use this word only in reference to a violation of law—and with proper attribution. See the crime and legal section of Chapter 20, “Reporting: Specialized Coverage.” ‘Politically correct’ issue: illegal aliens

  • impact: Don’t use this word as a verb. The illegal aliens issue will impact the next elections.
  • indict: Use this word only in its legal context of bringing charges. See the crime and legal section of Chapter 20, “Reporting: Specialized Coverage.
slide17

irregardless: Not a word. Use regardless instead.

  • issue: Saying that something is a controversial issue is redundant; it wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t controversial.
  • key: Another overworked word that only works, if at all, in the spirit of its original meaning of opening a lock.
  • kid, kids: Perfectly acceptable in broadcast for child, children.
  • lady, woman: Use lady only in quotes and in formal titles (as in Lady Marian); otherwise, use woman, women.
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major: Another overworked word.

  • majority, plurality: Majority means more than half; plurality means more than any other (as in the winner of a three-way race, perhaps).
  • massive: Another word worth resting.
  • media: Includes all media and requires a plural verb (singular is medium).Use media rather than press unless you’re specifically referring to print media only.
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mile, knot: Mile is a measure of distance (5,280 feet), as distinguished from knot, which is a speed of one nautical mile (6,076.1 feet) per hour. See the weather section of Chapter 18, “News, Weather & Sports.”

  • none: Usually means no one or not one and almost always takes a singular verb.
  • NOW: National Organization for Women—not of.
  • nuclear: Pronounced NU kleeur, not NU kyulur.
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press conference: Most broadcasters prefer news conference because pressrefers to print media only, although some argue that the term news conference elevates most of these gatherings beyond their substance. Same with news release / press release.

  • rebut, refute: Rebut means to argue against with evidence; refute means to prove wrong. Don’t confuse the two.
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some: Means an unspecified number. Its use to mean about (e.g., some one hundred years ago) is classic journalese. Normal people don’t talk like that. If you mean about, say about.

  • sources: An overworked, meaningless term that should be used more carefully. Don’t use the word alone; it doesn’t say enough to give any credence to a report or bit of information. Don’t use with unnamed. The source does have a name, making the correct term unidentified. Even so, use some accompanying word or substitute phrase that provides more substance to the source (e.g., a senior White House official says . . . ).
  • survey: BE CAREFUL. Don’t use this word when there really hasn’t been a formal survey.
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that, which, who: As pronouns, use who to reference people; use the appropriate choice of that or which to reference things.

  • toward: Not towards.
  • unique: Means the one and only. No adjective modifying unique makes much sense. Things cannot be more or less unique.
  • viable: Means able to live. Much overworked term.
  • warn: Means to inform of possible trouble. Don’t use the word when what’s involved is really a statement and not a warning.
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whether or not: Should almost always be just whether.

  • which, who: See that.
  • wide-ranging: Overworked phrase.
  • A few other clichés or inaccuracies… area residents, budget woes, first annual, completely destroyed, brandishing a firearm, aftermath, Campaign Trail, Clash With Police, clinging to life, Fled on Foot, gearing up, hunker down, Gunned Down, Here At Home… see more at: http://www.newswriting.com/groaners.htm