3/07/2008

I'll be at Dunkin' Donuts searching for criminals


THE BUREAUCRAT'S LIFE AT HOME

A Brief Play by Mr. Rewrite

(THE SCENE: A bureaucrat looks frantically in the refrigerator, then yells toward the kitchen door.)

BUREAUCRAT: Common-law spouse! I am actively searching for a malted alcoholic beverage! I desire assistance ascertaining its location!

(A voice calls from outside the door.)

VOICE: You are about to operate a motor vehicle at a high rate of speed! A malted alcoholic beverage consumed in large quantities will severely degrade your command-and-control capabilities! You should evaluate an alternative such as a soy-based milk substitute!

(The End.)

An article today tells Mr. Rewrite that police are "actively searching" for a suspect in some kind of crime. Does this mean police can be "passively searching" for suspects, perhaps as the cops sit at a Dunkin' Donuts counter?

Mr. Rewrite declares pretty much any construction including "actively," especially one that involves the actions of public servants, Another Redundancy Again (TM) and bureaucratic language (a.k.a. bureaucratese) at its worst. He's tempted to use certain phrases that don't belong in a family blog.

"Actively" this and "actively" that sound ever so official. But "actively" adds nothing but redundancy. By "searching," for example, police are necessarily being active. It's the same with "actively" looking for a job or "actively" seeking one's ancestry. You don't need "actively" unless you want to join the growing hive mind buying into bureaucrat-speak.

Here are examples from Google News of publications that need to clean it up:

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