Reconsider this: you cannot “return” players

It has been roughly two months since I began my foray into the world of semi-professional copy editing at the Baltimore Sun. (I say semi-professional because I’m just an intern.) But, despite my intern status, certain points of journalistic writing and style nevertheless aggravate the hell out of me.

The latest literary agitation comes to me courtesy of sports writers. (No, I don’t hate sports writers or sports sections; I just hate how sports writers sometimes write.) The following is a classic example of the type of “journalese” that John McIntyre—witty, bespectacled, curmudgeonly veteran of the Baltimore Sun‘s copy desk—verbally trounces. (At least, I think…)

“The [insert team's name] return [insert player's name] for a second season.”

E.g.: The Eagles return Mike Vick for a second season.

Two points to note here:

1. Invariably, in journalism, writers should always look to write more colloquially than “journalistically.” Saying “Sen. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)” is always more clunky than saying “Democratic Sen. Steny Hoyer,” or “Maryland’s Democratic Sen. Steny Hoyer.” As a journalist, your job is to disseminate information in a logical, organized and easily digestible format.

2. Nonetheless, I have never heard even the most avid sports-buff friends of mine use “return” as a verb in the above context. People will say “Mike Vick is coming back for a second season,” or “Mike Vick returns for a second season,” or “Mike Vick will be returning,” but never do I hear people say “The Eagles return Mike Vick.” My next question, upon hearing that, is to ask where they are returning him. To the supermarket? The department store? Outside the NFL draft, is there a special store that houses players in hermetically-sealed packaging before throwing them on an AstroTurf field to live their lives in states of football-induced concussive bliss?

Call it a pet peeve, but this is my blog, dammit. So for the sake of all of us, please return “[Team name] return [player name]” constructions to the depths of the journalese vault.