Every now and then newsrooms send around edicts banning overused phrases and ungainly words.

The use of access and impact as verbs springs to mind – something we were on constant guard against on the Business pages of the Daily Telegraph when I was there a few years ago.

Apparently, this is nothing new. The NZ Herald in its 1966 Manual of Journalism exhorted its writers thus:

“In recent years, without making them pass any sort of entrance examination, we seem to have admitted dozens of words which usually have little excuse for appearing in a newspaper. Some examples:

‘Few air services operated yesterday because of fog.’ Why not: ‘Fog stopped most air services yesterday.’

‘The Royal New Zealand Air Force will airlift food toIndia.’ Why not: ‘The Royal New Zealand Air Force will fly food to India.’

‘The house is situated in Jones Street.’ Why not: ‘The house is in Jones Street.’

‘The food position in India is desperate.’ Why not: ‘India is desperate for food.’

‘The men were transported to Taihape Hospital.’ Why not: ‘The men were taken to hospital.’

Newspapers offer scores of such examples, and usually they reflect lack of thought or a limited vocabulary.

Some journalists go further. They, or the persons whom they report, invent new words without thought for the need, the look or the sound.

Examples are hospitalise, for admitted to hospital; embus or emplane, for board a bus or aircraft; a rental, for rental car; non-availability, for not available; motivation or motivated, for caused or driven or a similar word; upgrade, for improve; motorise, for by motor vehicle; weatherwise, hotelwise, publicity-wise, and goodness knows how many more wises. And goodness knows what they mean!

In 2008, meanwhile, the UK Daily Telegraph’s list of banned words included:

epitome of
fall pregnant
fighting for his life
frail grannies
green light
hit series
gunned down
hike (when we mean a rise)

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