Who talks like that?

We’re told to write the way people talk, which is fine if you hang around people who talk in clear, complete sentences free of stuffiness and jargon.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who don’t talk like that. It’s especially true when they are speaking in a professional capacity and want to sound authoritative. That’s when they tend to break out the jargon, passive voice and insider terms.

This is a familiar problem to anyone who has dealt with police reports in real life or watched their authentic replication in movies and TV shows. You’ll run into phrases such as “the car was yellow in color,” (as if it could be yellow in shape or yellow in size). The same goes for “traveling in a northwesterly direction.” That means moving northwest, so why can’t you just say that?

This bleeds over into newspaper stories when reporters are too lazy to translate “cop-speak” into standard English. The same thing happens to reporters covering government, medicine, or any number of specialties.

Bob Ingrassia, an ex-reporter and adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota, likes to illustrate how silly all of this can sound by slipping the jargon into everyday conversations. Parents don’t say, “I’m expressing concerns that it’s past your bedtime.”

Here are my favorites from his list of his pet-peeve jargon:

  • fled on foot = ran away
high rate of speed = speeding
physical altercation = fight
verbal altercation = argument
reduce expenditures = cut costs
terminate employment = fire
  • blunt force trauma = injury
discharged the weapon = shot
  • officers observed = police saw
  • at this point in time = now
express concerns = complain
incendiary device = bomb
vehicle = car or truck
individual = man or woman
  • emergency personnel = police, firefighters
fatally injured = killed
motorist = driver
respond to the scene = arrive
  • precipitation = rain, snow
  • purchase = buy
  • intoxicated = drunk
controlled substances = drugs
  • contusion = bruise
head trauma = head injury
  • laceration = cut
provide leadership = lead
obstruct = block, get in the way
  • came to the conclusion that = decided, figured out
arrived at a decision = decided
  • reside = live



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