Ecocentricity Blog: These Words Are in Style
I want the issues of our time (environmental or otherwise) to be reported on accurately, and the terms used by reporters and journalists matter when it comes to conveying correct information.
I need a style guide. Just ask my wife – I can’t tell what matches what, which brands are fashionable, or what style of jeans I should buy. Chantel will ask my opinion on which shoes she should wear with an outfit, and I’m always left baffled. I’m pretty sure any answer I give will do more harm than good.
I’ve essentially defaulted to wearing my own “uniform” most days. I have the same long-sleeved shirts, golf polos, and button downs in different colors, and I can basically pick one at random to pair with my jeans (that Chantel bought for me). Most everything is a solid color, which keeps my mixing and matching as simple as can be. If I had a style guide, I could be a lot more adventurous.
[Looks over his shoulder in the direction of the whispers and snickers he hears.]
Hmmmm? What’s that? What’s so funny? Stop snickering and tell me what I said!
Oh……..well then. Apparently a “style guide” is not a person who helps lost souls like me with their lack of taste in garb. Also, the last 183 words were a complete waste and about as contrived of an opening I’ve ever come up with. Let’s pretend my Backspace and Delete keys are both broken and carry on.
A style guide is a set of writing standards used by news outlets/journals/publishers/etc. to ensure accuracy and consistency across their publications. It covers things like using Oxford commas, whether a person is “traveling” or “travelling,” and if something can be “on the other hand” if you didn’t mention the first hand first.
Style guides also cover language used when discussing substantive issues though, which is why I found this recent-ish article from The Guardian interesting. Here’s the first sentence from that article: “The Guardian has updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world.”
Specifically, The Guardian is moving away from the terms “climate change” and “global warming,” opting instead for “climate crisis/emergency/breakdown” and “global heating.” I imagine some folks out there will hear about this change and snicker like my imaginary wardrobe critics, but I appreciate the change. I want the issues of our time (environmental or otherwise) to be reported on accurately, and the terms used by reporters and journalists matter when it comes to conveying correct information.
Here’s Katharine Viner, The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, quoted from the same article: “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue. The phrase ‘climate change,’ for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is catastrophe for humanity.”
So, keep an eye and ear out for this new language. If you hear it more and more, remember that it’s not some arbitrary evolution of language. And consider what terms you should be using if you want to accurately talk about a challenge as massive as our climate crisis.