Chicago News Radio Needs a Grammar Review?

Listening to News Radio 780 WBBM in Chicago, something comes to my attention. It is rather a small item but perhaps one worth putting out there for discussion.

Storm clouds 7/18/2009

Storm clouds 7/18/2009 (Photo credit: Paul L McCord Jr)

It seems that the reporters have this knack for using the word “multiple” when talking about something that plainly is all ready in the plural, using an “s” at the end. Remember the basics of grammar? Typically adding “s” to the end of a word signifies that it is in the plural.

Lately however the reporters have used phrases such as “multiple injuries”, or “multiple gunshots”, or “multiple vehicles involved…”. Obviously it would make sense to say “five vehicles involved and the road shut down at…”, thereby making more specific that matter being reported. They can go on to say, “An EMS plan 1 is in effect with at least five ambulances sent to the scene…”, thus adding to the serious character of the incident and not taking up time by saying “multiple ambulances”. People on the road or in that area will then know what to look for and be prepared to pull over or avoid the area completely. And “injuries” tells the listener that the victim has been hurt in more than one are of the body. Just saying someone has been shot is enough- no need to say that they were shot three times and list the areas of the body so injured. It is unfortunate enough just hearing such a travesty being reported.

We understand plainly that there are “multiple wildfires” burning in the nation’s west and southwest, but it is enough just to say “wildfires are burning in Utah, Colorado…”, getting right to the nature of the subject, not how many there are, but on their scope, containment, and the forces battling the blazes. The reporters say, “200 homes have been burned”, not “multiple buildings have been burned…” and it certainly would not make sense to say “multiple firefighting companies…” The scope of those fires tells that story. There are hundreds of first responders working to help those residents and control those fires.

Also the reporters have a habit of saying “a couple ‘a thunder showers”… well now, what exactly constitutes “a couple ‘a” storms? Observations I have made of weather systems over the past decade show that not only can there be storms that can be reported by people all over a county, but that strong storms can last for over an hour and produce tornadoes, hail, etc. There can be waves of storm lines that cross an area, setting off supercell storms, and certainly these are going to be in more than a couple of counties or cities. “A couple ‘a”? That is not a useful phrase. It would just be best to say, “Storms and possibly heavy rain will cross the area…”, or “There are storms in Cook County heading southwest at…”, and “Look for the potential for rain and thunder showers…” Saying “a brief thunderstorm” makes no sense either- storms can last a half hour or more, so in relative terms for those making outdoor plans, what constitutes a brief storm? It might be better to say, “Thunderstorm end this evening with clearing skies…” Saying “partial clearing” makes no sense- just to say that there are clearing skies is enough- if it is not cloudy, it is clear or clearing.

Perhaps the news writers could use a little review of their material before passing it on to the reporters for airing. Specifics are always better, getting to the root or heart of the matter instead of tossing around empty phrases.


Thunderstorm (Photo credit: m.prinke)

Divi Logan and ®EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, ©2012.

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