If you work in the media, you’ve probably heard of AMBER alerts when people, especially children, go missing.

 

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Did you know those letters A M B E R stand for the words – America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response?

 

I reckon lots of my media colleagues write AMBER alerts without knowing how AMBER alerts got their name. I’m the sort of word nerd who likes to know the background behind expressions – especially what letters stand for.

 

The expression started in the United States – named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, in 1996.

In Australia, the media follow the US practice and issues AMBER alerts swiftly – to help find missing children. Details go out on radio, TV, on-line and on highway signs.

The most effective notification is usually by radio or those highway signs so motorists can contact authorities if they see any vehicle suspected to be carrying missing children.

 

 

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AMBER is an acronym – where you pronounce the word not the individual letters.

 

When the acronym (like AMBER) comes first and then you later create the words the individual letters stand for to match the acronym – a the catchy expression for this device is called…a BACK-RONYM. (sometimes called a bacronym)

 

I hope this post explained a few things you didn’t already know about AMBER alerts and back-ronyms.

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You like news writing tips? I’ve got plenty of them – accumulated over years of bosses improving my broadcast scripts.

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Hi, if you are interesting in writing – you’ll probably enjoy this blog. I’m a self-confessed and proud word nerd and big fan of Shakespeare – and other writers such as Hemingway.

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One of the most satisfying parts of my recent job as a Deputy News Director at a major commercial TV network in Australia was helping younger writers.

I understand that the name Bard of Breaking News can seem outrageously arrogant – yet I strategically use it for ‘memorable branding’ and for the comic effect of the outrageous link and contrast between the lasting and deep grandeur or Shakespeare’s writing and the disposable speed of modern breaking news.

I do firmly believe that we can all learn from Shakespeare’s techniques to improve our writing – whether it’s for business or political speeches or even writing breaking news.

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