Inaugural vs First Annual?
February 15, 2013 10:48 AM   Subscribe

My wife has organized a 5k as a fundraiser for her school. The event website lists it as the "First Annual" race. She got a nitpicky email chastising her her about it, complaining that it should be the "Inaugural" race. What do you think, and how should she respond?

My wife is a teacher and has organized a 5k as a fundraiser for her school. It's listed on several running sites to make sure as many prospective runners as possible see it and can enroll. The event websites list it as the "First Annual" race.

Today, she received this email through the site from a prospective runner:

This e-mail from an interested participant has reached you via racesiteredacted:
Listing: "schoolname redacted 1st Annual 5k & 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk"
Message: You can not claim something is an "Annual" event until you have more than one of them.
A first time event is its "Inaugural" event. If you have a second one, the following year, with plans for future ones in subsequent years... then and only then can you accurately describe it as the 2nd (or mores) Annual whatever.
Such a misstep is a bad example for elementary school students.

I can see the point the correspondent makes, and googled a bit to find some substantiation:
The AP Stylebook does state: "An event cannot be described as annual until it had been held in at least two successive years."

Several other sites agree . . .

On the other hand:
* When the Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar started having conferences in 1990, they called the inaugural edition "The First Annual ATEG Conference."

A few questions:

In this case "First Annual" is as much a statement of intent as it is of fact. The school wants to run this race every year. In my mind "Inaugural" doesn't carry that connotation. Is "First Annual" truly unacceptable? Do the AP rules apply here? Does "First Annual" bug you?

She's not going to change the race listing. Is there a polite way to respond to the emailer without conceding the point? Should she respond?

I'd appreciate any thoughts.

PS: Obligatory XKCD.
posted by RevRob330 to Education (57 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh for goodness' sake. Don't respond to such people; it only encourages them.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:52 AM on February 15, 2013 [81 favorites]

Also, for some reason, when I read the email I "hear" is as if narrated by Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
posted by RevRob330 at 10:53 AM on February 15, 2013 [14 favorites]

Ignore. Do not engage with this pedant.
posted by gnutron at 10:53 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This would be a case of don't feed the trolls in my world, and ignoring, because you aren't going to win. Or if you actually want to respond: "Thank you, I will take that under advisement."

The person sending that is perfectly welcome to organize their own, grammatically correct inaugural race in the future, but it appears they would rather send useless emails.
posted by rockindata at 10:53 AM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Technically, it should be called inaugural, but really, nobody cares that much.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:54 AM on February 15, 2013

She should not respond. Unless it is someone that requires a response such as one's boss/supervisor or something one should never respond to these sorts of things.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:54 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

If the pedant in question is actually a parent of a child at the school, sounds like a prime chance to say "why thank you for your attention to our event. I look forward to your help on the planning committee for next year's race!" Otherwise why bother engaging?
posted by Wretch729 at 10:56 AM on February 15, 2013 [11 favorites]

I'm with the emailer's reasoning. You call the first of something the "inaugural" event before and during it and then you can retroactively refer to it as the first annual event when you begin planning the second one.

I don't side with their claim that it sets a bad example. But don't cling so close to "First Annual" that you fail to see the advantages of calling it the inaugural event.

But she's not going to change the name. Don't respond. You don't owe anyone a response.
posted by inturnaround at 10:56 AM on February 15, 2013

Alternately, if you want to be polite but really set this pedant on edge, try:

"We will take that under advisement in planning next year's event. Thank you for your interest."
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:57 AM on February 15, 2013 [25 favorites]

Inaugural alone doesn't cut it because it gives no hint of frequency. "First Annual" conveys that it's the first and also that you're going to have one next year. Everyone understands what it means and there's no unnecessary language. That's why it's the correct thing to say here.

But I agree with the "Thank you, I will take that under advisement." Possibly with a grammar error or a ":)" for maximum trolling value.
posted by ftm at 10:58 AM on February 15, 2013 [15 favorites]

On second thought, I think you can politely respond that you didn't realize the language wasn't exactly correct, but that since you've already branded the race, you don't intend to change it now. No big deal.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:00 AM on February 15, 2013

"Thank you for your input. The event has been renamed First Inaugural 5K."
posted by WeekendJen at 11:06 AM on February 15, 2013 [60 favorites]

"Thanks for the clear explanation!"

Since you have to deal with this tool for the whole time your kid/s are there, it is best (I find) to just pat them on the head and move on.
posted by thatone at 11:07 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

So. Runners are kind of crazy. Some of us -- er, them -- really, really care about the race t-shirt and bib. Will those say "First Annual" on them? If not, I would just email the person back and tell him that there's no need to worry, his precious souvenirs won't be tainted with a usage he finds offensive. If they will, I'd just ignore.
posted by payoto at 11:07 AM on February 15, 2013

I always think people who call things the "first annual" are incorrect and amazingly optimistic, but I'd probably mock them secretly and not send the email.

Saying something like "Thank you. As the race has already been announced in multiple locations, it is too late to make the changes, but I will take this under advisement for the future" would be polite -- be polite! anything slightly rude or grammatically incorrect is going to make things worse -- and reasonable.
posted by jeather at 11:07 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

"Thank you for your input. The event has been renamed First Inaugural 5K."

Came here to say exactly this.
posted by griphus at 11:08 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would agree to not bother engaging this person unless your wife absolutely has to, and if she has to:

"Thank you for your input. We consider 'First Annual' to be aspirational."

And then ask where that person will be volunteering to help during the race itself.
posted by Etrigan at 11:11 AM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]

And then ask where that person will be volunteering to help during the race itself.

posted by Specklet at 11:17 AM on February 15, 2013

If you want to be pedantic back, you can go with something like:

"Thank you for your input. We are aware many style guides consider "First Annual" to be incorrect, but as I'm sure you know, style guides are not statements of correct or incorrect grammar and in fact often contradict each other. As we do not follow any particular style guide, and our usage is of course not grammatically incorrect (indeed, the Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar called their first conference a "First Annual"), we will maintain our use of the term "First Annual" here.
posted by brainmouse at 11:19 AM on February 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

[Not sure what part of "polite" got missed but please skip the Here's A Zinger stuff.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:20 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Most of these are much better than my initial instinct, which was to have her send this reply:

"Thank you for you’re concern about name of the race. Irregardless, we have decided that its not going to be changed."

(If I can't watch this person's head explode, what's the point?)


"As we only decided that running this race was the correct course of action after consulting the flight path of the local geese, calling it “in-augural” would be highly misleading."
posted by RevRob330 at 11:21 AM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Dear Pedant,

I checked my AP style book and it appears that you're right. Unfortunately we've already advertised it as the 'first annual' so we can no longer make the correction. At least we didn't establish a duathlon and call it a biathlon! My hopes are that we continue the race in coming years which would make the 2013 race a true 'first annual'. I hope to see you at the race this year and in the future.

love and kisses,

Race Organizer of awesomeness
posted by sciencegeek at 11:24 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

The pedant is technically correct, but also a pedant. Just don't respond. Nothing will burn their ass worse than having their obvious correctness unacknowledged.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:42 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Such a misstep is a bad example for elementary school students.

So is rudeness and trying to show others up and making a big deal out of minor issues.

In any case, some form of "thanks for your thoughts" or no response seems sufficient.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:49 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Be a Stoic! Reply with "You're absolutely right, but sadly it's too late to fix. I ought to have been more careful. I hope my careless optimism augurs well for the event in future."

The point she scores is important to her, and insignificant to you. Be generous!
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:51 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It can be argued that "inaugural" has the same problem as "first annual". Both of them imply that there will be another one. "First annual" implies it will be a year from now. "Inaugural" implies there will be another one sometime in the future — it could be next month, next quarter, next decade, next year. So, assuming the intention is to do this annually, "First annual" communicates more clearly the nature of the plans for future iterations. Stay the course.
posted by beagle at 11:51 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Seconding Wretch729 response, this is exactly the tactic I used as PTA president of my son's K-5 whenever I received a cranky complaint. It's amazing how quickly 95% of the complainers shut the heck up after being asked to do something material (ask them to volunteer to do [specific task] like right now, not wait until next year's event) and the 5% who do step up to the challenge tend to be useful, detail oriented people you want by your side.
posted by jamaro at 11:52 AM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Irregardless of how you choose to respond, do not use the word "irregardless"; it is not really a cromulent word. It will magnify the extent to which she perceives this as a matter of poor grammar infiltrating our schools, and also connotatively carries a sense of disregard when used in response to a concern, however petty that concern may be.

I vastly prefer First Annual, for what it's worth - Inaugural is probably a less familiar usage to most. Other people have given fantastic responses.
posted by decathexis at 12:19 PM on February 15, 2013

Email back a thank-you, and include this.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:26 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

the nit picker is right but is wrong in that this is an issue long passed the time people cared about it. Convention and usage allows for calling it the annual.
posted by Postroad at 12:44 PM on February 15, 2013

Yes, First Annual is the way to go, because it will avoid the "?" for people who don't know what "inaugural" means but are too embarrassed/don't care enough to ask. First Annual is clear. It is the first race in what your wife's school intends to be an annual event. Inaugural, as someone pointed out above, doesn't communicate the idea of how often it will happen.

If there is a need to respond to this person, your wife could politely say that she is choosing the phrase that will communicate the idea most clearly to the widest audience and leave it at that. I think it's generally good to be polite in e-mailed responses, but I don't think the response needs to be conciliatory at all, because the tone of the e-mail is frankly shitty and conveys a need to be Right and fucking snotty about it. And THAT is what really sets a bad example for elementary school students!

I say this as a) an English instructor; b) someone who loves language and thinks "inaugural" is a cool and useful word (in some contexts) c) someone who thinks it's better to go with clear usage than be pedantically "correct."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:46 PM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

So, that person is OBVIOUSLY a total beast, and a snooty snoot, sure, on this we can all agree.

But, you know, it's a website listing? We change words on websites all day long. Why shouldn't you? And as for the listings you've sent out, who cares, they're out.

Organizations like school boards plan for lots of things to be annual that don't become annual, after all. Things intrude!

(But really, if it was me, I would say, "HI, we're BEING FUNNY, thanks for signing up to run! (You did, didn't you?"))
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:51 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

The justification for the existence of this rule -- "there's only one so far, it's not annual yet" -- is ridiculous. An Annual Report isn't an Inaugural Report in its first year. The Daily Bugle or the Weekly Gazette doesn't wait until the second issue to use the term. A Biennale doesn't start off its life as the "Possibly Will Be Held In Two Years if Things Work Out."
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:16 PM on February 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

It's not pedantic because the complainant is not pointing out minutiae or nitpicking; the complainant is correct about something any editor, proofreader or well-educated reader would notice. It's something of a clanger, as when people say biannual when they mean biennial.

Your wife is just plain wrong, as your post acknowledges. Furthermore, she is a teacher, and should be a) embarrassed; b) gracious about being corrected; c) not blow off the correction like a surly teenager with a dismissive "whatevs, teach."

What's done is done but in future, your wife should refer to this event correctly as the inaugural race.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:24 PM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

c) not blow off the correction like a surly teenager with a dismissive "whatevs, teach."

Yikes, where do you see that?

The invitation is out. Let it go. I'm pretty sure your wife will remember this for her next "inaugural event" whatever that may be.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:36 PM on February 15, 2013

I disagree, DarlingBri. I think an informal event is best publicized in an informal verbal register. A 5K fun run fundraiser is an informal event, and "First Annual Jones School 5K" is an informal description. "Inaugural Jones School 5K" reads, to my eye as a professional editor, copy editor, and former consultant on non-profit communications, as overly formal.

Now, "First Annual Nobel Prize in Copy Editing" would be jarring, because a formal event is best publicized in a formal verbal register.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:39 PM on February 15, 2013 [11 favorites]

Pedantic person may well be a pill but is correct in this instance. There's no way to politely respond without conceding the point. Wife is incorrect; pedant is correct. It's annoying when that happens.

BTW, runners are absolutely weird about this stuff. I do a lot of inaugural races because having the inaugural finishers medal is a good one for the collection. I just dug through my race medals - not one says "First Annual" but plenty say "Inaugural". (Not that there are normally medals for such a short distance race, just as an example of how races are named.)
posted by 26.2 at 1:40 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with RJReynolds--why not change the websites? And at the awards ceremony, your wife can make some humorous reference to the unknown copy editor who caught this error and ask for that person to come forward to have his/her valuable contribution acknowledged and to present that person with the Golden Quill or whatever.
Maybe the person is an introvert with social anxiety and PTSD from grammar lessons of the past. Who knows? Who cares? Trying to make some snappy comeback is just going to make bad blood and most school volunteer activities produce enough angst without extra help.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:53 PM on February 15, 2013

Does "First Annual" bug you?

Apparently I'm in the minority here, but "First Annual" bugs me. It's bugged me for years. It drives me to rant about the stupidity of people who use it. (I know, I'm very judgemental. Don't judge me.) It irritates me so much that I do not participate in any event that describes itself as "First Annual" because what is wrong with you people? I have such a lack of perspective on this that as I opened up this question I was thinking, Thank God, everyone on metafilter will explain to these people how appalling "First Annual" is and they'll change it and all will be right with the world.

OK. So today I learned that not everyone shares my pet peeve. And I would like to defend myself against those of you who are going to point out that I'm insane by saying that I am here answering a question about whether or not "First Annual" bugs me, and I am not emailing event organizers to tell them how wrong they are.

I don't know what you should do to respond to the crazy person who is just like me only ruder. Probably it's best not to respond at all.
posted by medusa at 1:55 PM on February 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

You're not alone in that boat medusa.

I agree, no need to respond the the complaint, but to stubbornly defend being wrong about something is as juvenile as the passive agressive schemes concocted to make that point. Would you do the same if you made a comparison by using the word "then" instead of the correct word "than"?
posted by humboldt32 at 2:13 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since the pedantic emailer did not pose a question or request more information, then there is no need to respond. The pedantic emailer may well be correct, but sadly they lack social graces, which in my book far outweighs correctness. I would bet that responding will encourage this person to drop your wife a line every time they see something minor they dislike about the race, which isn't helpful and will just raise your wife's blood pressure. Also, I think the pedantic emailer will feel smug and vindicated if they get a response. Don't give them that pleasure, please.
posted by Joh at 2:19 PM on February 15, 2013

I am known for being a grammar and syntax taskmaster. I understand the distinction of Annual/Inaugural. However, because I'm not the kind of runner who participates in races very much, and I assume that this little 5k will not attract too many of those types, either, this is fine. It's a distinction made in styleguides and among professional athletic organizers. "Thank you for your input, we will note it for future events of this nature!" is a perfectly reasonable response. I place this in the "10 items or less" category-- technically wrong, annoying in formal writings, but acceptable given the context.
posted by deanc at 2:21 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sidhedevil - The shortest race that I have a finishers medal from is a 15K. However, even in a 5K normally the top 3 finishers get a medal. (So I've heard. My slowass is at the back of the pack. The top three have taken a shower by the time I get to the finish line.)

I was looking at the medals just as a way to see what the naming convention was for inaugural races not to say that medals were commonplace for races of the 5K distance.
posted by 26.2 at 2:29 PM on February 15, 2013

Eh, I'd change the race listing and send a quick "Good catch." or "Thx" email. It gets more complicated if you've already got a designed logo and t-shirts and everything else, but if at this point all you are talking about is text, why not make the change?

If your wife needs a bit of a jab in at this person, reassure her that a 1 or 2-word response to a huffy email will provide it.
posted by apparently at 2:32 PM on February 15, 2013

I work with people like the emailer. They may be correct, but their delivery could be less combative. Usually the best response is a reply that acknowledges whatever data was presented, along with something to indicate that you will do whatever can be done to correct the situation. Or, if nothing can be done to correct the situation, provide an explanation for why, and an assurance that future designs will strive to maintain and achieve the best possible standards.

The reason for this is because such a person can and often will make the situation worse, if they get the impression that you don't consider it as important as they do. They usually escalate up the chain of command, and depending on how sensitive your wife's superiors are to complaints, could complicate things.

So my suggestion is to reply, with something like this:
Dear pedanticperson,

Thank you very much for bringing this to our attention. We endeavor to set the best example for our students and understand that "inaugural" is often used for the premiere of an event. As we intend to hold this event every year, we will strive for due diligence in all future publications.

Unfortunately, the amount of work involved in planning this event may not allow us to address this matter in a timely fashion. We hope this will not diminish your interest in helping to raise funds for our school children, and we look forward to your support in the years to come!

Thank you,
wifename, teacher grade

posted by CancerMan at 2:33 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Style guides are not law, and they have no value outside of whatever institutions happen to adopt them. There is little utility in bringing them up as a defense in this context. I do not care, in any way, what the AP style guide has to say when it comes to writing a comment here in MetaFilter. To give it weight in this context is as absurd as referencing the owner's manual of your car while trying to troubleshoot a motor boat.

"First Annual" is perhaps optimistic, but there is no error in grammar in it whatsoever. As has been repeatedly pointed out, it has the added benefit of conveying additional useful information over the word inaugural.

I'm going to stop here before I say anything too judgmental about some of the people who have posted.

For what it's worth, I think you should not respond. If you do, refuse the temptation to snark.
posted by jsturgill at 2:50 PM on February 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

Hi I work in Communications, our team gets emails like this all the time, even when usage is correct! This is especially the case in grey areas like this where popular usage diverges from "correct" usage.

There are only two possible responses:

1. Ignore it. Believe me, these Grammar Grinches will never be happy. They enjoy feeling superior.

2. Write back, and simply say, "Thanks for the information."

These responses are not representative of the vast majority of people that neither notice, nor care, about these things.

Do not change anything.
posted by smoke at 2:57 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am peeved that people think an apology, rather stated or implied, is in order because addressing the presumed mistake at this late date isn't feasible. If I were the teacher and had it to do over again, I would still call it the First Annual because that is what makes sense in this context. This is the first 5K, an event that sponsors plan to hold each year. Inaugural sounds absurd in this context.

On preview, what jsturgill said.
posted by shoesietart at 2:58 PM on February 15, 2013

I am peeved that people think an apology, rather stated or implied, is in order because addressing the presumed mistake at this late date isn't feasible

Sometimes it helps to make someone feel better by apologizing and thanking them for their information, even if you're not going to act on it. Especially if the pedant is in danger of escalating the issue, it can be helpful to make them feel like they've "won." There is no prize for being "right" in this case, except in the mind of the pedant, so it might help to give him that "prize" in exchange for knowing that he/she will go away afterwards.
posted by deanc at 3:10 PM on February 15, 2013

If you want to reply to the person with something that will annoy them without being impolite or making them annoyed at you, tell them that several people have brought this issue to your attention.
posted by alphanerd at 3:10 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yes, don't engage.

But I'm also going to take issue with anyone who says you can't say "first annual." The AP stylebook says this: "An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years. Do not use the term first annual. Instead, note that sponsors plan to hold an event annually."

Way too nit-picky. That last sentence, to me, is exactly what is implied by the words first annual. It uniquely communicates intent for future events, and is much more concise than "noting a plan to hold an event annually." This is one of those cases where I'd actually encourage social change on whatever is written down as technically being proper.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:39 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

For one of my jobs, I prepare the weekly calendar of events for a local newspaper chain, and we get this all the time --- honestly, if you submitted this to us? We'd delete BOTH 'First Annual' AND 'Inaugural'..... we even think long and hard before permitting an entry to state 'Second Annual'.

Listing something as either First Annual or Inaugural certainly indicates an *intention* of holding the event on a regular basis, but we see far, FAR too many 'First Annuals' that are never followed by a Second Annual..... good intentions are nice, but immaterial.
posted by easily confused at 4:12 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would check to see who sent the e-mail. Are they a power-player? Somebody nobody's heard of? Respond accordingly; politics in school is a thing. Do not send a snarky response to That Big Donor (or Big Volunteer, whichever). Really, no good comes of sending a snarky response.
posted by jmd82 at 5:54 PM on February 15, 2013

On the one hand, pedant be annoying and I'd normally just ignore.

On the other hand:
(a) technically your wife is wrong. (Not that I care which way it goes, but there's enough arguments in here about its wrongness to convince me, and I don't care.)
(b) this is involving a school, which means that the pedant may start whining up the chain of command to the principal or something if s/he doesn't get their way, and drama may ensue. Is it worth that? Probably not. Yes, it sounds stupid, but we live in a crazy age and I'd be a little worried anyway, especially if pedant has anything to do with the school instead of being a random runner.

This leads me to: how easily is this changed? If it's just on the website and you haven't spent a gajillion dollars in branded T-shirts and fliers and shit like that, I'd just suck it up and change it. If money has been spent on branded items, I'd write back and say, "thank you, but it's too late to change the branding now that the money has been spent." Or say that the principal wanted you to stick with "first annual" and it's out of your hands, if you want to claim that one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:59 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I will add to jsturgill's comment that there isn't even a consensus among style guides/experts about whether "first annual" is acceptable or not. So it is not possible for anyone to definitively declare (as a surprising number of commenters have done in this thread) that it is "wrong." Teacher or not, your wife should not feel embarrassed about having used the phrase.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:32 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just drop the "Annual" and call it the "schoolname redacted First 5k & 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk". Sidhedevil is right: "Inaugural" is much too formal for a fun run.
posted by v-tach at 9:56 PM on February 15, 2013

Spotted just a few minutes ago while picking up a pizza, posted by a nearby private school that is a fundraising juggernaut.
posted by jamaro at 6:15 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

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