Bad rap(utation)

If someone has a bad reputation, why do we say they have a “bad rap” and not a “bad rep”? After all, “bad rep” is just a shorter way of saying “bad reputation.”

True as that may be, the phrase is in fact bad rap.

Confused? We’re here to help.

The word “rap” originated as a way to describe a punishment (think “rap on the knuckles”) and evolved to be slang for taking the blame for something. From there, it came to mean a prison sentence or criminal indictment.

The term “rap sheet,” meaning police arrest record, was first used in 1949, according to Merriam-Webster, and after that “bad rap” made its way into the written word more and more often starting in the 1960s.

Tbh, we find it a little awkward that the very definition of this usage of “rap” contains the word “reputation,” but we don’t make the rules. We just research them and give you advice. In this case, we advise you to use “bad rap” to avoid getting a, um, bad rap.

Although "bad rap" and "bad rep" are often used interchangeably, "bad rap" is the original phrase, and "bad rep" can be interpreted as a misspelling. So stick with "bad rap" to avoid getting a bad rap :wink:: "Ice cream gets a bad rap, but research indicates it might not be as unhealthy as most people think." Do not use "bad wrap."

And if you want to avoid getting a bad rap by misusing other commonly confused words, take our quiz to see where you can improve.

💌 A tip a week

This post is adapted from Stylebot’s weekly writing tips newsletter. Subscribe here to get a writing tip in your inbox every Friday.

💬 Get reliable, ethical writing advice at your fingertips

Improving your writing means making better choices every day. Stylebot makes it easy with our Slack, Teams and Google Chrome extensions. Try Stylebot for free today.

📝 About Stylebot

Stylebot helps media professionals save time without sacrificing quality by answering editing questions on Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Chrome. We’re on a mission to make editing faster, easier and more fun ✨ Learn more about Stylebot or follow us Instagram, X or LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.