I can be a bit of a pedant, so this photo caption in Saturday’s Age caught my eye:
“Former NGV director Patrick McCaughey” pictured in 1986 — so was he the former NGV director back then?
No — the article text makes it clear he was the director in 1986.
There’s a simple way of conveying this in the text, and it’s not just me — it turns out National Geographic has a style guide which recommends:
Do not use former when reference is made to something done while a person held a position; then may be used
Not to single out The Age here — I’ve noticed “former” being used when “then” is more appropriate in a lot of stories from various media outlets recently.
Fairfax has its own style guide, and there’s also the Australian Commonwealth Printing Office style manual — but neither of these are online. I might try and hunt these down in a library.
Perhaps only NatGeo and I care about this?
But the meaning of words matter. They should be chosen carefully.
Regardless of my pedantry, the article about the 1986 theft of Picasso’s Weeping Woman, and the accompanying account of then Chief Conservator Thomas Dixon, are a great read. I wonder if we’ll ever know what actually happened.