LSSU Banished Words list, 2008

Thu Jan 3 04:39:01 UTC 2008

By "simpler" I mean that "wrote" is a more common and more familiar word, that its meaning is intuitive and immediately available to the reader or listener, that it is a core English word where "authored" is a relative neologism (not as much of a neologism as I would have guessed, since M-W dates it to 1596, but it's centuries newer than "wrote").  While "wrote" is an irregular verb, I don't think that makes its use more complex to readers and listeners who know immediately that "wrote" is the past tense of "write" (as they might not know, for example, that "wrought" is the archaic past tense of "work").
By "more precise," I mean that "wrote" conveys, I think typically unambiguously (though exceptions could be produced), that the writer composed the text of the work.  "Authored" can refer to any relationship that would cause the person to be considered the author of a work.  It also can refer more broadly to an act of creation.
Because "authored" is often used in situations where the "author's" relationship to the work is ambiguous, it seems plausible that one could draw a negative implication from its use, but I have no evidence that anyone actually does draw that negative implication.
John Baker


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Dennis Preston
Sent: Wed 1/2/2008 10:10 PM

Subject: Re: LSSU Banished Words list, 2008

What are your criteria that 'wrote' is

1) simpler (I could argue that "wrote" is irregular and therefore more complex)
2) more precise (I could argue that "wrote" is a very common word and
therefore much more likely to be multiply ambiguous)
3) carries this implication for all users/readers/hearers (Is this
your impression only or have determined that this is indeed the
implication for a significant number of persons? It doesn't for me,
by the way.)?


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       "Baker, John" <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>
>Subject:      Re: LSSU Banished Words list, 2008
>         "Problematic" uses - of the kind I talk about below - do peeve
>me.  It seems to me to be better in every way to say that Philip K. Dick
>"wrote" his book, not that he "authored" it.  "Wrote" is a simpler word,
>it is more precise, and it avoids the unpleasant and false implication
>that Dick may have put his name on a work that was not entirely his.
>         When I suggested that the sportswriter's use was "precious," I
>meant that he was trying a little too hard for a high-falutin effect.
>It is not a sufficiently annoying or consistent objection with me to be
>a peeve.
>John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list