Thursday, June 15, 2006

Windy word: "Officials"

I heard this on the radio this morning:

Immigration officials have arrested more than two-thousand...

Now why in the world would one use "officials" here, except out of sheer laziness? Was it not "agents" who made the arrests? "Officials" is one of those words that make our copy sound like journalese and not plain English. There's almost always a better word, depending on the context -- agents, executives, leaders, etc. The only time I remember using "officials" since I weaned myself off it years ago was in a story I had to attribute to "Homeland Security officials" -- after considerable thought, I decided I really didn't know what else they were.

"Officials" has a close relation -- "authorities" -- which sounds just plain ridiculous and has no place in a broadcast news script.

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