Cramping our fracking styleCramping our fracking styleBryan PopePope

fracking word image 

​​​English is fun, isn’t it? And I mean "fun" in a just-beat-me-over-the-head-with-an-Oxford-English-Dictionary-until-I’m-unconscious kind of way.

Take the word "fracing," for instance. Not familiar with it? You must not work in the oil and gas industry. How about "fracking"? Ah, that rings a bell.

These two spellings have occasionally been the subject of lighthearted controversy here at the Real Estate Center. So much so that they earned their own entry in our office style guide.

Some quick background for the uninitiated: fracing and fracking are both shorthand for "hydraulic fracturing," which is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure deep into a well to create tiny fissures in the rock, allowing gas and oil to flow into the well. Same meaning but slightly different spellings ("fracing" being the standard spelling within the oil and gas industry).

I did a lot of reading on the subject before recommending the Center depart from the industry standard and adopt the k-inclusive spelling, and the most informative piece on the subject came from drillers.com​. You can read that yourself (and you should because it’s interesting). Instead, let’s skip down to the reader feedback. That’s always fun. One reader wrote:

"My first encounter with the 'k' spelling was in a news article of a major national publication about five years ago. The article was clearly slanted against the entire practice of hydraulic stimulation. I responded to the author that there is no 'k' in the root word 'fracturing' and it made no sense to spell the word 'frack' or 'fracking.' The author wrote back that 'inclusion of the k made the word sound more evil.' I forwarded this email to the author’s chief editor and encouraged the editor to demand objective reporting from his employees and to save editorials for the editorial pages."

"More evil"? True, the shorthand use, regardless of how it’s spelled, is itself viewed by some in the drilling industry as a pejorative. Rest assured that this is not, nor has it ever been, the case here at the Real Estate Center.

But back to the spelling. All industries and occupations have their own lingo and terminology, and we generally follow industry standards. Sometimes, though, we have to consider the greater good—in this case, clarity for our general audience.

Read those words again out loud: Fracing. Fracking. Fracing. Fracking.

I’m willing to bet the first inclination for many of you was to pronounce the no-k version as "fray-sing." Hey, I did when I first read it. But "frack-ing" (pronounced like "lacking") is the proper pronunciation for both. As an editor, the last thing I want is our readers tripping over a word simply because they followed basic rules of English pronunciation (“rules” that frequently contradict themselves and make me consider expatriating somewhere that has a language that makes more sense, but whatever).

Google backs us up. Searching for "fracking" just now turned up about 10.8 million results. "Fracing" brought back a comparatively scant 414,000 and the question "Did you mean 'fracking'?"

Also worth noting: A spell check of this article showed five misspellings, all for the same word. Guess which one.


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