W-W-Weasel Words – What?


When you are learning how to edit hybrid reference on Wikipedia, Weasel Words are defined as statements which appear to assert something but subtly imply something different, opposite, or stronger in the way they are made.

Weasel Words

Online Jigsaw of the Day

That actually sounds like a hard trick to pull off?  Doesn’t it?  Let’s see.

A common form of weasel wording is through vague attribution, where a statement is dressed with authority with no substantial basis.  Is that the one where Mum says ..”Because I say so!”

Wikipedia lists these phrases as unsupported attributions…

.. some people say, many scholars state, it is believed/regarded, many are of the opinion, most feel, experts declare, it is often reported, it is widely thought, research has shown, science says …

In all of our writing it is wise to avoid phrases that look like they lend authority to a claim when really they are just vague. (Guesses at best)

The staff at Wikipedia say that by misrepresenting the authority of the source of the claim, writers are actually denying the reader the opportunity to assess the source of the viewpoint. They may be doing this by accident but they are disguising a biased view.

Claims about what people say, think, feel, or believe, and what has been shown, demonstrated, or proved should be clearly attributed.

The antidote to all confusion is to properly reference a reliable source.  You may do it this way, it seems that this point of view is reliable.  Two surveys (name) + (name) have shown support for the idea.

Reliable sources may analyze and interpret, but we, as writers, cannot do so ourselves, since that would be original research or would violate the neutral point of view.

Equally, editorial irony and damning with faint praise have no place in Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia: Manual of Style Words.

No phrase automatically qualifies to be called a Weasel Word.  Vague references may be used in the lead section of an article or in a topic sentence of a paragraph, where the article body or the rest of the paragraph supplies attribution.

Advertising and Weasel Words

Go on an Internet or a newspaper hunt and find and examples of Weasel Words.  Look out for phrases such as …. Scientifically proven (with no evidence offered to support the claim.)

  • some people say,
  • many scholars state,
  • it is believed/regarded,
  • many are of the opinion,
  • most feel,
  • experts declare,
  • it is often reported,
  • it is widely thought,
  • research has shown,
  • science says

Resources:

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9 thoughts on “W-W-Weasel Words – What?

    1. Jo Murphy Post author

      Hi, Yes I guess that’s the point for the kids to pick up on? That Weasel Words are every where. Do you know I used up over 17gigs of space this month (too many movies) I am waiting for my limit to be reset before watching the Purge. Til then have a good week!

      Jo

      Reply
  1. Mocha

    I’ve always like ‘they say’
    ‘they say a lot don’t they?’
    ‘they usually do.’ (pulp fiction)
    Am I a weasel…

    Reply
    1. Jo Murphy Post author

      Hi Mocha,
      I am not watching Pulp Fiction again to pick up on that point! I will read Copper Coins as soon as possible though. It looks good! Jo

      Reply
  2. Redo You Project

    Great post, Jo. I do learn a good bit from you. Experts declare that most people feel you are a very good teacher, so says the science! Have a great day…

    Jeff

    Reply
      1. Redo You Project

        Yeah, I have problems with settings and firewalls as well. Your adventure to teach ESL sounds really fantastic…bet you’re looking forward to it!

        Keep in touch…

        Jeff

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