Stuart Pearcey
Words and Spaces Ltd
Fri,30th January, 2015

Never has a word been so devalued as poor old 'local'. It was clinging on by its fingernails when I started writing professionally in the Seventies, but the growth of ways to publish on line today, in whatever form, has driven the nails into its coffin.

Quite simply, here's why: its definition is different for everyone. That means that what's 'local' to me, like the Post Office down the road or the school opposite my home, isn't 'local' to my daughter in London. The way around that is to say 'my local', if you really must, indicating that whatever you're talking about is near you.

But you'd be surprised how many times I see 'local' appear in media releases (which I get from around the world), where it merely serves to fudge the meaning. 'New company to help local pensioners', a headline might say. Closer examination reveals they're local to the company, which could be hundreds of miles away, and not to me.

Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, the pensioners aren't local at all. An example of how restrictive it can be popped up on Twitter recently. Someone was looking for a blogger during one of those #hour sessions. Shutting down more than 99% of the world, has asked for a 'local blogger' in the area being featured. Surely the way to phrase the question was to ask for a blogger who could write about that area. To paraphrase the old-style bobber and weaver Arthur Daley (with apologies to people who never saw the Minder TV series) "With the internet, Terry, the world's your lobster".

So how do you get around the 'local' problem? Firstly, think global. What you publish on line can be read as easily in Accra or Accrington as it can in Aldershot, and should have a clear meaning in all of them. Secondly, think of another word. Substitute the name of a place, turning 'Local businesses in Barnsley...' into 'Barnsley businesses...'; or 'Local people in Stamford...' into 'The Stamford community...' Doing that will focus the meaning of your writing; without it, your prose is just noise.

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