Back when I was covering Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon for The Associated Press, a number of reporters gathered to dissect Armstrong’s first words when he stepped on the moon. Although his voice was somewhat muffled, it appeared that Armstrong said:
- “That’s one step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
- “That’s one step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
- “A Conference Flag is Lowered for the Last Time” – The Wall Street Journal
- “After 54 Years, The Flag is Down” – USA Today
Clearly, this was not the only Confederate flag owned by the State of South Carolina. Thus, saying “The flag” is imprecise. And, USA Today used “the flag” throughout its story.
Precision in the language we use to communicate (and to write policies) is vital to associations and other organizations.
- (Example: it took a Supreme Court ruling to determine what Congress really meant when it addressed state exchanges in the Affordable Care Act.)
(Heck, I’ve probably even written some of them myself. This is why writers – including me – need editors and proofreaders!)
- Are your written materials proofed for language?
- Does your written language say what you really mean?
- Do you take time to have your words reviewed by editors and proofreaders?
Armstrong told biographers he did say “for a man” ... that without the “a” the statement makes no sense. While some who have studied the audio contend he did not say “a,” researchers at Michigan State University claim he did. “In central Ohio, where Armstrong was raised, speakers have a tendency to blend the two words together. And previous studies of Armstrong’s own speech “have established well that if the word 'a' was spoken, it was very short and was fully blended acoustically with the preceding word,” Dilley said in this story by Michigan State University Today. Coming out of Armstrong’s mouth, the phrase “for a” would have sounded like “frrr(uh),” according to the story.”