Public Square Magazine recently published information about how tone of editorial content is correlated with whether editors comply with the 2018 request by the Church to avoid nicknames for the Church. Where editors give themselves permission to continue using the term “Mormon,” articles are much more likely to be negative in tone.
Despite early skepticism about whether news organizations would bother giving up short terms like ”LDS” and ”Mormon” when discussing the Church, there are indications that about half of the stories on major news websites have made the switch to the full name of the Church.
Where the name of the Church is mentioned in the headline, only ~15% of headlines refer to the Church by its full name.
Ironically, the Public Square article, itself, used “Mormon” in the title:
The article includes a link to a detailed description of methodology as well as detailed data used in the study. Of note, the study didn’t look at whether negative tone was appropriate, just what the tone was and how it correlated with used of the nickname.
I myself saw the power of stepping away from the nickname “Mormon” when I went through my book, Reluctant Polygamist, and replaced all instances of the term “Mormon” that could appropriately be replaced. The resulting copy was much improved, though I haven’t yet pushed out this edition of that book.
Having done this for my own writing, I find myself being irritated when other scholars use the term “Mormon” where it is not necessary. Obviously some of these scholarly works were written before President Nelson requested people shift away from use of the term “Mormon” when discussing the Church. Yet having now seen how much less polarizing our new normal can be, it is fascinating to see the burden we used to place upon ourselves (And sometimes persist on placing on ourselves).
Thanks to The Elizabeth McCune Institute for funding this study and to Christopher D. Cunningham for publishing this on Public Square. Thanks also to Jacob Hess for bringing this to the attention of the rest of us who write for M*.