Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word
to edit a document when preparing it for publication
'The obvious question to ask MPs, starting with Mr Brown, is this one: did you ask the Fees Office to redact any information out of your files and, if so, what did you ask to have removed?'The Telegraph 19th June 2009
'The next set of redacted data, beyond that held by this newspaper, will restore the complete obfuscation of greed, graft, flipping and CGT fraud which was endemic.'The Telegraph 23rd June 2009
'We think the result, especially after the lawyers get hold of it, will be pretty extensive redaction of the contents. That means huge chunks blacked out, just like MPs' expenses forms …'The Times 26th June 2009
'We'll be combing through the receipts, parsing the claims and coming up with a definitive judgement on just how many black marker pens the redactors got through.'The Times 19th June 2009
Question: What do you do when you're obliged to publish an article containing information that could make life difficult for you? Answer: get that information redacted.
If you're aware of the scandal over MPs' expenses currently raging in the UK and have been following recent media coverage, then there's a good chance that you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. For the uninitiated however, redact is an English verb which simply means 'to prepare something for publication', a lesser-known synonym of the word edit, which has recently burst out of relative obscurity.
In June 2009, after a major controversy about 'inappropriate' personal expenses incurred by many UK MPs, the decision was taken to 'go public' and publish the expenses claims online. However, despite Prime Minister Gordon Brown's call for 'maximum transparency', the published claims had many key details blacked out, in particular the addresses that they related to. In a backlash of sceptical coverage by the media, the verb redact subsequently hit the spotlight as a euphemism for 'cover-up', i.e.: the deletion of information which was in any way sensitive or damaging to the MPs concerned.
Redact is a transitive verb and a related participle adjective redacted (e.g., a redacted receipt) is also in regular use. The noun form redaction can be used uncountably to refer to the editing process, or in countable form to describe either the changes made to a document or the revised version itself. An agent noun redactor refers to the person who makes the changes (aka editor).
in current usage this verb also carries with it definite connotations of not just editing documents but 'censoring' them
In the Oxford English Dictionary, redact is described as 'rare' and defined simply as 'to edit'. In the light of new technologies which have enabled information to be stored and shared more widely, and the legal and privacy issues which arise as a result, it seems likely that redact will be used more and more frequently. In current usage this verb also carries with it definite connotations of not just editing documents but 'censoring' them (i.e.: changing or deleting sensitive information).
The verb redact is actually a derivative of the noun redaction rather than the other way round, formed by a linguistic process known as back-formation. Back-formation is a process of word formation in which a shorter word is formed from a longer word that already exists in the language. This occurs by deletion of some kind of imagined affix inspired by words where conventional word formation has taken place. So, for example, edit was derived from editor by analogy with act and actor, even though in the latter case, the verb act existed first, whereas in the former case, the noun editor existed first.
The noun redaction dates back to the late eighteenth century, deriving from Latin redigere meaning 'bring back'.
Are you as comfortable reading Twitter tweets and social media sites as you are a novel? Read last week's BuzzWord.
This article was first published on 8th July 2009.