As a former English major, I take a particular interest in the words people use to describe things, and if there is one thing (besides misspellings) that drives me insane it is hyperbole. The bad news for me heading into 2018 is that needlessly overly dramatic language seems to be in vogue at the moment.

Let’s just take a “news” story I saw this week concerning a recent broadcast of the popular game show Wheel of Fortune. Before I get to the headline, let me summarize the story. A contestant on the show basically had a puzzle solved, but oped to buy another vowel to make it even more crystal clear. Now, the headline: “‘Wheel of Fortune’ fans enraged after contestant buys pointless vowel.”

Not amused. Not surprised. Not even mildly irritated. Enraged. This word conjured up images for me of infuriated viewers burning their television sets in the streets or hanging effigies of Pat Sajak. What really happened, though? There were a handful of snarky tweets.

Dear God. The anger.


I almost feel bad for picking on this little article, mainly because the usage of hyperbolic language is so out of control these days. It seems as if someone is always “outraged” or “shocked” or “horrified” about something, and nine times out of 10 the actual story does not match up to the weight of the words used in the headline. In this case, if someone actually was “enraged” by what happened, I would kindly suggest that person make getting a life their top New Year’s resolution for 2018.

Beyond simply being annoying, though, this reckless use of language can even be dangerous, in my opinion. In an attempt to whip up people’s most intense feelings, writers are employing words designed specifically to encourage an overreaction. Sure, it’s easy to overlook a story about Wheel of Fortune, but what about when the story is about the president? Or what about when race is the central issue? What happens when the stakes are raised?

People, unfortunately, have a tendency to follow, like sheep. If someone tells them they’re supposed to be enraged about something, it’s a good bet a great number of them will conjure up some angry feelings just to fit in. This stirring of the pot by writers disturbs me greatly. Journalistic writers, in particular, have a responsibility to report facts actually, not to attempt to stir up sensationalism to attract more readers. I may be old-fashioned to believe this type of writing still exists, but it’s a goal I always aspire to.

Writers, watch your language. You have a power beyond what you know. And Wheel of Fortune contestants? Don’t buy vowels when you don’t have to. Who knows what wrath you may incur?

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