Writing for Business

Aug 9 2012   12:57PM GMT

Blatant vs. flagrant

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
The ad was a ________ attempt to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about the competitor’s product.
a. blatant
b. flagrant

Answer: a.

From Merriam-Webster:
Definition of BLATANT
: noisy especially in a vulgar or offensive manner : clamorous
: completely obvious, conspicuous, or obtrusive especially in a crass or offensive manner : brazen

Definition of FLAGRANT
archaic : fiery hot : burning
: conspicuously offensive ; especially : so obviously inconsistent with what is right or proper as to appear to be a flouting of law or morality

The meanings of these these two words are a little tricky to distinguish because they both mean obvious and bad, usually in reference to an offense of some sort. The main difference is in emphasis: Something that’s blatant is particularly open or obvious but not as seriously wrong as something that’s flagrant. You might blatantly ignore your company’s mobile device policy, for example, if you thought you wouldn’t catch flak for it.

Something that’s flagrant is particularly bad — even evil — AND obvious. It’s a flagrant violation of human rights, for example, when peaceful protesters are beaten and jailed. So if your boss describes your flouting of the policy as “flagrant,” she’s being overly dramatic.

Grammarist further explores the difference between blatant and fragrant and offers more examples — mostly of misuse.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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