Words matter, they have consequences. Indeed, many observers have begun to note a widening gap in lexicons between the left and the right. For example, as immigration becomes a major issue in this year’s Statewide elections, one would be remiss not to notice the big differences in the framing of the issue between candidates. Things as simple as the word to denote those immigrants who have violated law by not entering this country legally have been lost in translation. The Republican base refers to these individuals as “illegal alines,” whereas many in the Democratic Party use the term “unauthorized workers.” Study after study shows us that public opinion on a complicated issue may be easily manipulated by framing the issue in a particular way.
For example, one could imagine the ease in which a voter may be convinced to not reward “illegal aliens” with “amnesty.” The same could be said for allowing those aforementioned “unauthorized workers” to continue working within the country with a pathway to citizenship.
We have historically punted on this issue of political jargon. Our current policy is to simply allow individual writers (or the specific unsigned author of any editorial) to use terms of her or his own choosing. In addition to the issues of politically-charged terms, a lack of a unified and consistent style policy opens us up to charges of inconsistency. Look at our articles, and you will find woeful discrepancies between how we refer to public officials. For example, sometimes we will refer to an individual in second-mention as “Judge Doe” or “Senator Doe,” but sometimes as just “Doe” and sometimes as “Mr Doe.”
The solution, we have determined, is to adopt the Associated Press’ stylebook in our articles and editorials. While following this new style will be the sole responsibility of the author, it will both provide some consistency and neutrality on contentious issues. If you were wondering, we would refer to that jurist named John Doe on a second reference as simply “Doe.” Individuals who enter this country in violation of the law are “undocumented immigrants.” The union of two individuals of identical sexes in matrimony is “same-sex marriage,” rather than “gay marriage” or “marriage equality.”
Finally, on the mother of all controversial political debates, abortion, the AP Stylebook provides a good middle ground. Individuals or movements who generally support continuing a policy of legalized abortion are “Pro-Abortion rights,” not “Pro-Choice,” “Anti-Life” or the shorter “Pro-Abortion.” Those opposed to the aforementioned policy are “Anti-Abortion rights,” not “Anti-Abortion,” “Anti-Choice” or the typical descriptor “Pro-Life.”
So there you have it. We will attempt to abide by consistent and neutral terms, even as our substance (especially editorial substance) continues to anything but. We do not have the hang of every detail, so we expect to make some rookie mistakes. But for now, let’s get back to reporting and talking about politics.
The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, Sophia Arena of Houston, George Bailey of Boston and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the board.