Mis-use of the word ‘revert’

Dear creatives, communicators, strategists and those working in media,

‘Revert’ is not a synonym for ‘get back to’. It is also not another word for ‘set of changes’. So when you type, “I’ll check with client and revert.” or ‘How many reverts does this quote include?” you are bastardising a perfectly innocent verb.

To clarify, ‘revert’ means go back to a previous state, condition or practice. As in, “He reverted to his native language.” There is already a ‘back’ implied there, so ‘revert back’ is like saying ‘chai tea’ or ‘ATM machine’; that is: wholly redundant.

And yet… The widespread mis-use of this verb for nefarious purposes infuriates me more than those who use ‘loose’ when they mean ‘lose’. Because so many people use ‘revert’ incorrectly that those, like me, who have sleepless nights about misplaced apostrophes, are marginalised. We’re old-fashioned. Picky. Pedantic.

My mother-in-law generally views me in this light. She, aside from having spawned my husband, is a Professor of Applied English Language Studies with a PhD in Linguistics. Her view is that languages evolve with use (and that I’m a purist).

However, she and I agree that, often, it’s not the fittest of the language that survives. Evolution does not always mean progress. And eventually, the incorrect use of ‘revert’ will become standard (like ‘literally’), unless we change how we use it now.

So please, please, please, for the continued peace of my editorial soul and, more importantly, for the future of the English language, I beg you: Use ‘revert’ properly.


*This post originally appeared in The Media magazine.