Friday, April 30, 2004

Don't use "presumptive nominee"

Doug Fisher, who teaches journalism at the University of South Carolina and runs the Common Sense Journalism blog, illustrates how a word that's correct may not be the one you want.

We should not call Kerry the Democrats' "presumptive nominee." It has been published thousands of times, and it's not wrong, but it can be misleading. Many people read presumptive as presumptuous.

Fisher slipped in a sentence on a recent quiz in a copy-editing class:
Smith said it was presumptive/presumptuous to think he'd do that.
More than a third of the 50 students -- juniors and seniors majoring in journalism -- got it wrong.

So what do you change it to? "Likely" or "probable."

On a similar note, if you think this advice is unfounded and use the term anyway, don't call Kerry a presumptive candidate. He has officially been a candidate since Sept. 2.


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