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WSJ: millennial misstep

“Millennials” has become a sort of snide shorthand in the pages of The Wall Street Journal. We have blamed them for the housing shortage, their fickle shopping habits or for fleeing New Jersey. We have had a laugh at their expense over behaviors such as a fear of doorbells or their discovery of the TV antenna. And at other times we have treated them like an alien species (“If You Have 29 Credit Cards, You’re Probably a Millennial” or “Facts to Silence Your Smug Millennial Nephew This Thanksgiving”). Comedian and late-night host Stephen Colbert even mocked our coverage on an episode of “The Late Show.” What we usually mean is young people, so we probably should just say that. Many of the habits and attributes of millennials are common for people in their 20s, with or without a snotty term.

But it is worth remembering, too, that millennials are an important group of WSJ readers (not to mention many of your colleagues). We risk alienating them if we write about them with such disdain. Increasingly, we are not just covering how economists or marketers perceive this generation. We are writing for and about a group of people who are building major companies, altering the way we work and live and challenging long-held notions of family and society.

Let’s also be precise when referring to this group and resist the temptation to use stereotypes, apply a blanket label or let the term become a crutch in our stories. Occasionally, we’ve referred to millennials when we really meant teenagers. Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are commonly defined as people born from about 1980-2000. That means the oldest millennials are approaching 40 and the youngest are seniors in high school. Such explanations are worth including in articles that are centered on millennials.

WSJ Style & Substance: Vol. 30, No. 11: Millennials
WSJ Style & Substance archive