Prestigious and Other Overused Words

Public trust in journalism is beyond broken, it is basically non-existent. To be effective, journalism must secure the trust of a super-majority of the public, a bare majority is not enough.

Which brings me to one of the reasons I don’t trust journalism, the overuse of adjectives such as prestigious, controversial, dramatic, and such.

Baltimore Sun editor John E. McIntrye makes a great argument against the use of prestigious in his latest post:

The first part of the argument was that when a thing genuinely possesses prestige, people know it. You don’t have to call a Nobel Prize “prestigious.” The second part was that if people don’t know it, a mere adjective will not confer prestige.

Then @PatWallace05 responded, “But if I’m writing about China for a US audience, they may need to be told that Fudan is a ‘prestigious’ university.”

I suggested that it would be better to indicate why the university has prestige. Is it highly selective? Is it a school for children of the Party elite? Does it produce Nobel laureates? A short phrase would tell the reader more than a threadbare adjective.

Read his full discussion here: