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When Publications Ban Words

banned words

In April Gawker editor Max Read sent out a memo to the site’s writers with a list of banned words and practices. On the list, he includes internet slang such as “epic,” “derp,” “pwn,” “OMG,” and the standalone “this.” Read writes, “We want to sound like regular adult human beings, not Buzzfeed writers or Reddit commenters.” In this new editorial directive, Gawker will move away from its signature vernacular to embrace a more formal style.

In Slate’s podcast Culture Gabfest, deputy editor Julia Turner points out that this is not a shocking development. Publications, she says “…have often banned the words that play into the most negative stereotypes about their publication… because they’re trying to avoid becoming clichés of themselves.” Turner points to a 2001 New York Times article that reveals that Town & Country steered clear of the word “socialites,” and Gourmet frowned on “crispy,” “sinful,” and “divine.” Many publications ban swear words, as Ben Zimmer explores in his article on how newspapers handle the expletive in one of President Obama’s favorite phrases, also known colloquially as the Obama Doctrine.

Do you think publications should ban words? Are there any words you try to avoid in your writing? Why do you eschew these particular words? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

7 Comments

  1. Kit Snicket -  March 15, 2015 - 7:43 pm

    I try to avoid such terms as BTW, LOL, IDK, IDC, and TIL. Epic, however, can refer to a poem or saga.

    Reply
  2. Nocturne -  November 18, 2014 - 11:20 am

    No they shouldn’t. Without internet slang, life would be very awkward. For example: saying “Lol” isn’t award in text, but saying “Hahaha” “HoHoHo” “HeeHeeHee” or “Teehee” is very awkward when typed online.

    Reply
  3. […] like a reliable news source. According to Dictionary.com, which ran an article on the blog's revised linguistic guidelines, Gawker's writers will now leave behind common Internet slang in favor of language used by […]

    Reply
  4. Nerfbomb -  July 5, 2014 - 11:39 am

    I can understand certain [overused] slang being banned like “derp, “pwn”, & “OMG”, as those are not real words anyway, but “epic” is a legitimate word.
    What they need instead of “banning” words, is it enact a better manual of style. i.e. they should be presenting the news in a professional semi-formal manner, not as a text-message-internet-slang garbage-fest.
    Most people who use these “banned” slang words use them to describe everything to the point that the words lose all meaning, or because the person doesn’t know any other words to use. Slang is okay for informal chat, but if you’re using it in what is supposed to be a serious, professional article, then you’re just showing off your ignorance & lack of legitimate vocabulary.

    Reply
  5. tshepiso -  July 2, 2014 - 2:24 am

    No I mean these words give a lot oF emotion in. Into your writing and add passion and meaning

    Reply

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