Has anyone else noticed the increasing use of ‘later’ in news articles? I’m talking about examples like ‘The government will announce later that …’ or ‘The police are expected to arrest a man later for …’
Is it laziness on the part of journalists who cannot be bothered to find out when X or Y will happen? No, I suspect it is simply another example of how our beloved English language is being misused in order to fit the ‘style’ of the digital age.
Not too long ago, such stories in print newspapers (remember them?) would have said ‘today’ or ‘this afternoon’, ‘on Tuesday’ or ‘on 26 March’. The advent of news websites, however, meant that people could be reading the piece in parts of the world many hours ahead of or behind the time zone where the events were unfolding. Specifying a period of time when something was expected to happen must have been deemed too detailed, too open to error if events moved slower than anticipated or perhaps just plain unnecessary.
From one point of view, then, the use of ‘later’ is understandable. But in the sort of examples I mention, it is a tautology* – something to be avoided if at all possible for the sake of good grammar. If something is yet to happen, it will by definition occur later, whether by minutes or years. Saying an event ‘will’ take place ‘later’ is as bad as the oft-heard ‘the road is blocked following an earlier accident’. Of course it was earlier – if not, the road wouldn’t be blocked, would it? Aaargh! Better to say nothing about the time at all.
* The Oxford English Dictionary recounts the excellent 1686 comment ‘The Taedium of Tautology is odious to every Pen and Ear’. Indeed.