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It's over when it's over

An annoying element in the coverage or primary elections — not as consequential as the inept prognostications or as annoying as the banal chatter, but still worth deploring — is the talk as the count proceeds of final results.

We’re back in obnoxious pleonasm territory. A result is an outcome or a consequence. The result is where the process ends. You can have preliminary returns, and you can have disputed or contested returns, but the result is the final count.

And it’s not just in election coverage that this pointless construction pops up:

Final results for U.S. existing-home sales in 2007 — to be released later this month — are expected to be down 12.7 percent from 6.48 million in 2006, the group said.

Despite the final results of 2007, in announcing the Ravens would seek a new coach, owner Steve Bisciotti left the definite impression that he feels his team is closer to the top of the NFL dog pile than it is the bottom.

Final figures or numbers for home sales would be fine if it’s necessary to make a contrast with previously announced statistics, and the outcome of 2007 for the Ravens is a matter that requires no further elaboration.



Posted by John McIntyre at 12:41 PM | | Comments (3)


Isn't an election comprised of many results? (IE, separate polling places/counties/states)

If so, a construct like "Initial results indicate..." wouldn't be entirely out of place. Maybe that's where "final results" comes from: it's a complimentary structure (even though there's only one end result).

As for the preceding commenter's saying, "it's a complimentary structure," I withhold my compliment.

Speaking of results, I get annoyed when newsreaders (I prefer that more humble Brit appellation) say, "She won by a 2-1 margin." Am I not correct in noting that such a construction would mean there were three voters, and that "ratio" is the correct word?

I'm as much for cutting out and eliminating redundancy as the next editor, but I think there are times in football when you would want to distinguish between "game results" and "season results." That said, I agree that "outcome" would have been a better choice in this example. "Returns" certainly wouldn't apply in football, unless we were talking about punts and kickoffs.

Might there be other times when "results" aren't final? It would be clumsy, but not necessarily wrong, to say, "The Ravens' possession was the result of a fumble recovery, the end result of which was a Ravens touchdown."

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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