How many are several?

Several is classic journalese for some. As in, “Some say….” It’s also used for a few, not many, a small number, a handful, a tiny minority. It’s usually used when a reporter or editor has no precise number but whatever it is, it ain’t big. What brings this up is a letter to the editor of The Boston Globe Nov. 22, 2017, from Michael O’Keefe, District attorney of Cape & Islands district of Massachusetts.

O’Keefe writes: “In an editorial this month supporting the state Senate’s criminal justice reform bill, the Globe noted that ‘several’ district attorneys signed a letter in opposition to parts of the Senate effort. It was actually nine of the Commonwealth’s 11 elected district attorneys who signed.”

File under: Don’t kill an editorial opinion with facts.

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