In a society of politeness and age of political correctness, writers are now having to come up with new ways to say what they mean, without being rude. And that is with the usage of “read”.
Today, I want to look at what it means when you see “(read:….)” in a piece of text. We’ll also look at why we do it like this and give you plenty of examples to help you to fully understand.
“read:” in brackets is used to say what’s actually being said.
Because we tend to be polite, we like to soften the blow. But sometimes, you need to say it how it is.
“She told me she was busy (read: Go away weirdo!)”
In other words, “read:” is translated into honesty.
Situations to use (or at least think about) read usage
Although it’s pretty rare that you should physically write “read:”, there are times when you might imagine it being there. The most common three are work, dating, and adverts.
At work, we all like to come across as professionals. We like to act as though we could never do any wrong.
In dating, we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings by saying we’re not interested, so we tell them white lies like we’re busy.
And in adverts, they won’t lie, but they may use clever words and phrases to disguise the truth.
18 examples of “read:”
6 examples from work
“I’m afraid you need to get those reports done by tomorrow. They should have been finished at lunch. (read: hurry up with the reports or you’re fired)”
“I was told to clear out my desk (read: I was fired)”
“She’s new, she’ll learn how we work around here (read: She is rubbish! How has she not been fired yet?)”
“What my boss and his PA do after hours is none of my concern (read: they’re definitely shagging)”
“I’m running late because traffic is just awful (read: line in Starbucks was longer than usual)”
“I like to keep my personal and professional life separate (read: yes, I did sleep with her)”
5 examples from dating
“I’m so sorry for not replying. I’ve been really busy with university! (read: go away, I am not interested)”
“Yeah sure, I’ll let you know when I’m free. But it might not be for a while, I am super busy (read: no thanks, I don’t want to meet you”
“You are so cute! (read: I will never date you)”
“I just got out of a really bad relationship, I’m not looking for anything right now (read: I’m about to shag ten guys)”
“I only sleep with people if I really like them (read: I’m a slag)”
7 examples from adverts
“There are no artificial sweetener (read: there is enough sugar to give you diabetes)”
“There are no artificial pesticides (read: sorry if you find a worm in there)”
“It’s all organic, gluten free, and vegan (read: I’m a twat who’s charging more for horrible food)”
“When you spend a certain amount, delivery is free (read: buy more)”
“We have great customer reviews for this product (read: we paid for all our reviews)”
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity (read: you’ll get opportunities like this all the time)”
“What a fantastic idea! (read: meh, it’s alright)”
Another read usage
There is another meaning to “(read:…)”, and this one is most commonly found in textbooks and other forms of non-fiction writing.
“King Henry had a struggle to the throne (Read: Henry vs Richard by Milton Jones)”. In this context, the usage of “read:” means that if you want to find out more, you should look at the source that’s just been mentioned.
Most of the time, this usage of “read:” is more common.
In most formal situations, if you see “read:”, it’s talking about a source for more learning. In casual situations, it likely means “translated into honesty, this means”.
What is Politically Correct?
The term “politically correct” is thrown around a lot these days. Some say it’s there to stifle free speech. And in its extreme, it can be. But most of you will use politically correct language most of the time anyway, without even thinking about it.
When you’re with your boss, your family, or even your date, it’s unlikely you will tell the whole, unfiltered truth. So, you might use softer language to get your point across less harshly.
Why we use politically correct language
Whether you want to call it “politically correct” or “polite”, the fact remains that we all do it.
At work, we do it so that we come across as professional. It’s important to remember that the way we should talk to our boss might not be the same as the way we would talk to our friends. We want them to believe we take them and their company seriously.
But it’s not just at work. In romance, we often need to decline people we’re not interested in. We will usually say something like “I’m really busy”, when really what we mean is “I’m not attracted to you”.
Why political correctness can be bad
Although being polite and watering down the truth can be beneficial sometimes, there are other times when it does more harm than good.
Although nobody wants to get their feelings hurt, when there is a truth we need to know, telling it to us straight is sometimes the best way. For example, if someone’s business idea is rubbish, “it needs some work” might not always be quite as good as “this idea is rubbish. Give up”.
It’s important to know when to be polite and when to be honest.
When you see “read:” in brackets, what it likely means is that what has just been said is a watered-down version of the truth or even a lie. And what you’re about to read is the blunt and honest truth.
Being polite is a good thing. Even political correctness does have its place. But sometimes, we don’t need to hear the polite version of things, we need to listen to how the world really is.
With that being said, next time you’re texting with someone and they say “read:…”, you’ll know that they have seen through the lies and understand what is actually being said to them.
You can also use this article to use “read:” when talking about your boss, your dating life, or something you’ve seen advertised.
Martin is the founder of Grammarhow.com. With top grades in English and teaching experience at university level, he is on a mission to share all of his knowledge about the English language. Having written thousands of articles, he is an expert at explaining difficult topics in a simple language.
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