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is it brand new or just new?

So there’s a debate of sorts that came up in a story I wrote today. And my meager Google skills (or more likely the fact that I am lazy and tired right now and have to wake up early) have so far not brought me any closer to a definitive answer.

I wrote about a band receiving an anonymous donation which allowed them to purchase a “brand new” truck to haul its trailer. The opening of the story talks about how bad the old van was, and how the boosters had been seeking money enough just to buy a used truck. But, then I talk about how a donor stepped forward and allowed them “to buy a new (insert the model which I can’t remember off the top of my head)” truck. My first draft said a “brand new ….” but I scratched the word brand because it was drilled into my head — by whom I can’t even recall at this point — that brand new was unnecessary. New alone suffices. It’s like saying something is very unique or the first ever. It is or it isn’t unique or the first. It’s either new or it’s not. Simple, right?

An editor called me around 10:30 p.m. to ask about the year of the vehicle. I have to admit, I didn’t get it and at that point, it was too late to try. I do know it was purchased off the dealer lot last week, but I didn’t think to ask the year. Point taken. I know nothing about cars anyway. Apparently without the year and my lack of the word “brand” before new, it throws into question whether the vehicle was new or not. (Or something along those illogical lines. I don’t quite follow it, because I clearly state it was new, so bear with me.)

I got an e-mail from the editor after our conversation: “We used the term brand new because it is not redundant, but has a meaning all its own. Brand new means not just new to the person but actually and indisputably new. Of course having the year would have made that unnecessary.”

I will give you that the year would have cleared it up if it were a 2008 model, but were it a 2007 model, it still could have been used. Second, I don’t think it’s necessary to be “actually and indisputably new.” I think being new is enough. The point is they were just looking for anything better than what they had, and they ended up with a free new $20K+ truck. It either is or it isn’t new. If it wasn’t, I would have qualified it, “new to them” or “used” or one of those other phrases that more aptly sum up the fact that it wasn’t, well, new.

But I digress. At this point, I’m just confused and venting. I am just curious if someone else has thoughts on this? Is it new or brand new, and do you think there’s even a difference? I understand the reasoning for including “brand new” in this story, I suppose. And it’s not like it meant cutting anything else to fit in that word. But I am curious for future purposes, because as I said, I was always taught it was a major don’t. And in a world where tight writing is necessary, I want to know if this is a safe short cut.

4 Responses to “is it brand new or just new?”

  1. Ed Says:

    Its either brand new or used. A 2008 truck leased or purchased and returned or traded in today with any amount of miles on the odometer would be considered a used truck. Call some local dealers and ask if they have any used 2008 trucks on their lots. I bet they do. (They might prefer to call them pre-enjoyed vehicles). Either way a used truck is a used truck.

    In short, there is a difference between a new vehicle and a brand new vehicle and it is important to make that distinction in a news story in which a new or brand new truck is the subjet.

  2. Dana Says:

    My advice: strike the word “new” from your writing vocabulary to force yourself to get those extra details, such as the year of the car. I’d say 99 percent of the time, not only is the word “brand” useless, but so is the word “new.” The most obvious example is “the city built a new park” (as if they could build and old one–I know you know this and that your situation is different). But I usually find if it’s worth noting that something is new, it’s worth a couple extra words.
    Here’s what your editors meant. Let’s say someone’s house burned down, so they had to move to a “new” house. It doesn’t necessarily mean the house was just constructed last week and never lived in before–it could just mean it is “new” as in it is not their old house. Sometimes “new” is used as a synonym for “another.” And if the house was built last week, that sounds like it might be a significant detail worth more than a one-word or even two-word modifier.
    This is why I generally demolish the word “new” from copy. The family moved. Period. If it was a never-before-lived-in-shiny house, and that is an important part of the story, I find another way to explain that. If it’s not important whether or not the house is “brand new,” I just say they moved. “Brand new” sounds a little too “Price is Right” to me.
    The case I run into a lot: One of our reporters will say a company is moving to a new factory in Atlanta. I have to find out if it is really “new” or just an already existing empty factory. This is significant because it plays into how much the company spent. So I usually say “Rubber Co. moved its headquarters to Atlanta. The company spent 1.8 million to build the facility.” Or “The company found a building that better suited its needs for $600,000.”
    Did you ever have a class with Candace? She’s the one who beat the “brand new” thing into my head.

  3. Charles Says:

    “Brand new” to me suggests unwrapped – never opened (or for a car, never driven or used in any way). “New” could mean “very recent” but doesn’t – weird thing with cars – omit the possibility of “used a bit”.

    So for collectors of, say, toy cars, “brand new” has a specific meaning, I’m sure.

    Thus with a car you might have a brand new ’58 Chevy. As in, never actually driven anywhere; just sat in a garage being polished occasionally. Possible, yes?

    So I don’t think “brand new” was a tautology here. But it’s one of those phrases that when you hear you need to ask “what do you mean by ‘brand new’?

  4. Meranda Says:

    I thought about it, with all of your input, and I think I agree that brand new added needed context on this story.

    I think my thinking is most in line with Dana, here. (And to answer her question no, I actually managed to graduate without ever having Candace!)

    At least I’ll be more cognizant of my usage in the future — and avoid it whenever possible. Thanks for the feedback!