Style Matters #31: Vehicles don’t ‘collide’ with stationary objects


It’s not uncommon to read or hear a news story about a car colliding with a tree … or a fence … or a wall.

That can never be so, because the word collision means that two moving objects have come together. If one of the two objects in question is stationary, then another verb must be employed.

What is wrong with using more precise and shorter words, such as hit or struck?


His speeding car hit a tree just beyond the sharp bend.
Her out-of-control sedan hit the traffic light on the median strip.

Reporters and writers also need to be wary of the way they use the verb collide, especially in breaking news stories about actual traffic incidents, because it is too easy to imply blame on one party or the other.

For instance, if you say His car collided with a school bus, you will imply that it was the car driver’s fault, which may not yet be established.

In such a case, it would be better to say: His car and a school bus collided.


If you like what you’ve read here, you can see reporting4work’s similar posts at Style Matters

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