When is a quotation a lil’ too informal?

03/08/2014 6:22 PM

03/08/2014 6:22 PM

Reader Dick Ballentine brought up an excellent point to ponder today:

The Star’s Wednesday story on President Obama’s 2015 Federal Budget proposal quoted him in a manner I had not seen before and I’m wondering if it is a new policy or practice or merely something I have missed or overlooked. He is quoted as saying “As a country, we’ve got to make a decision if we’re gonna protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans or if we’re gonna make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy...” (italics supplied). I believe “gonna” is slang for “going to” and that normally, unless the speaker is intentionally using slang to make his/her point, the term used by journalists would be “going to”.

The Star generally follows the Associated Press Stylebook. Its section on “quotations in the news” reads:

Never alter quotations even to correct minor grammatical errors or word usage. Casual minor tongue slips may be removed by using ellipses but even that should be done with extreme caution. Do not use substandard spellings such as gonna or wanna in attempts to convey regional dialects or informal pronunciations, except to help a desired touch or to convey an emphasis by the speaker.

Now, I don’t think it’s too controversial a statement to say that President Obama is a purposeful orator who is capable of modulating his language for emotional effect when he wishes.

Listen to his remarks in this video and see what you think.

He very clearly doesn’t enunciate “going to,” so it’s up to you whether “gonna” would convey the AP’s “desired touch” clause or not. I don’t think Obama is speaking in a particularly colorful or colloquial way in this instance, so I can understand those who might object to “gonna” here.

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