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."


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]


Journalese often takes the form of specific turns of phrase, such as "hammered out agreement" or "called for tighter restrictions". A notable example of this is the phrase "rioting and mayhem ...", which has led to popular misunderstanding, causing the legal term mayhem to change its main meaning in everyday usage. Journalese can also take the form of specific word choice. This is most obvious with the use of rare or archaic words like ink (as a verb), nab, slated, quizzed (in place of "asked" or "questioned") or "funnyman". In some cases this is due to fossil words present in idiomatic journalese statements. Journalese is also often a result of a desire to save on page space by using shorter words or phrases. This is seen when dates are used as adjectives ("The Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of John F. Kennedy ...") or adverbs ("The governor Thursday announced ..."). It is also the cause of some of the aforementioned archaic words and of the use of the word attack to mean "criticise", which may cause ambiguity if a physical or military attack is possible between the parties named. "Slam" and "blast" are also used this way.

Another form of Journalese is anthropomorphization, such as with the use of the verb saw (past tense of see) in the phrase "The 1990s saw an increase in crime", which is used to avoid using the past tense of "increase", as in "Crime increased in the 1990s". Other forms include use of onomatopoeia, genitives of place names ("New York's Central Park" rather than "Central Park, in New York"), and gap filler articles like bus plunges.

See also


  1. 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

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