CaptureThere needs to be some discussion on the use of “ex” in news stories concerning military members across the board.

However, the big offender on the list today (actually yesterday now…) is Navy Times. Yesterday on the site’s news pages I read two headlines stating “Ex-Navy SEAL” and “Ex-SEAL…” both are differing subjects (screen shot right). However, within the article they correct themselves to use the proper label of “former.” Yes, there is a difference.

Perhaps those at Navy Times know there is a difference and they’re only link-baiting… maybe not. Matters not if they are link-baiting to get your attention- they should at least give the individuals they’re discussing the respect of proper labels.

So what’s the difference? Well, if you ask a Marine they can tell you outright; however, for some reason it’s not as prevalent in the other services. The label “ex” (e.g. ex-Coastie) should lead one to believe that this person was once a Coastie but it no longer because they were discharged for wrongdoing or some other ill thing (actual title: Ex-Coastie commits wire-fraud). Whereas the label of “former” spells out that the individual was once a member of said service and left on good terms (good conduct discharge, retired. etc.). For example the Navy Times had a story of an “Ex-Coast Guard member” who wrote a book (I’m reading it with a review soon); however, this was NOT an “ex” Coastie but, in fact, a “former” member of this great service.

The soapbox was there, I stood up and said my piece, now I’ll get down.

Posted by Ryan Erickson in Coast Guard, Navy
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  • You have to keep in mind that the editor who created the headline is still thinking in print. So “ex-” is perfectly normal when one is creating a headline that has limited number of characters on a line. The reading public gets it. I suspect this might have been written by an older editor. However, in the digital headline writing, the word “former” should have been used, because space is not an issue.

    • Ryan Erickson

      Good point Isaac. Having experience only in the all digital world I wouldn’t have thought of such.

  • grandpabluewater

    Let us not ignore the fine old term “emeritus”.

  • cargosquid

    EX-Marine Murtha
    EX-Sailor Kerry

  • I’m a retired Coast Guardsman, but I’m still a Coast Guardsman.

  • FoilHatWearer

    I get sick of the media dragging the military through the mud every time an “ex-” or “former” or whatever military person commits a crime and gets in the papers. You don’t see headlines of ex-waiters and ex-barbers committing crimes but if a guy spent 5 minutes in a Navy recruiter’s office (or got kicked out of boot-camp), he’s former-Navy. It’s just one more table scrap thrown to the public that wants to hear that everybody who ever deployed is teetering on the edge of being a serial rapist and one beer away from taking hostages and shooting it out with police.

    In the mid to late 1980s, we were hearing the same thing about Vietnam Veterans. Of course, the media conveniently left out the fact that Vietnam Vets are gainfully employed at a rate significantly above the national average and commit crimes at a rate significantly below the national average. Dan Rather (and every news agency in the country) was running news pieces of veterans running drugs, beating their wives, and running out into the forest a la Ted Kaczynski to live in a hut, get drunk, and plot their next rampage.

  • Sooneridver

    Much ado about nothing… simple grist for the blogger to ramble on about!