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June 01, 2005

Unsatisfactory Syntax Standards at AP

Word choice in a news story can subtly (or not so subtly) convey personal or organizational attitudes.

Though such verbal shading can be practiced consciously or unconsciously, journalists owe it to the public to vigilantly avoid conveying their biases through word choice.

Courtesy of AP, we have an excellent example of how to color a story with opinion using poorly chosen adjectives:

A small but growing number of Israelis, troubled by their country's harsh policies in trying to put down Palestinian unrest are refusing to serve in the West Bank and Gaza, and others are seeking exemptions from army service.

Note that the writer describes Israel's response to terrorism as "harsh," a loaded word which according to the American Heritage Dictionary means "Severe, cruel, or exacting"; yet the terrorism itself — including the arbitrary launching of rockets into cities, and suicide bombings which even the one-sided Human Rights Watch considers a "crime against humanity" — is described as mere "unrest." (According to the American Heritage Dictionary, "An uneasy or troubled condition.")

barrierbarbs.jpg   israel_bus_bomb_060303.jpg
"Harsh Reaction"   "Palestinian Unrest"

Posted by at June 1, 2005 11:39 AM