As an example:

I am bored (read: lazy).

I wish to know if English Grammar has a formal construct for this usage.

  • This placement of a word is in parentheses. If you write (A) B (C), B is between parentheses.
    – SF.
    Oct 19 '12 at 10:48

Looking for occurrences of (read in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, I find among the 33 first hits:

  • 18 are of the form: “she promised her supporters (read: voters)
  • 5 are of the form: “she promised her supporters (read voters)
  • 10 are unrelated to your question, like “(read more in…)

These shows two things: there are two alternatives, and while the use of a colon after reading is preferred, it is not a hard and fast rule. Also, when the colon is omitted, italicisation may be used for clarification of the intent, as in: “she promised her supporters (read voters)”; unfortunately, this is not reflected in the statistics given above.

Personally, I prefer using the colon, as I find it more readable.

  • 9
    Don't you mean "more read:able"? ;-)
    – Hellion
    Feb 24 '11 at 22:09
  • 3
    As an alternative, you could italicise or use quotation marks. But the colon is indeed attractive. Feb 24 '11 at 23:34

I agree that this expression has a more "informal and chatty" nature; I would choose it over "i.e.," for example, as a conspiratorial aside to the reader, e.g. poking fun at doublespeak: "enhanced interrogation(read: torture)", implying "we all know what they really mean when they say that!" It's also handy to know that italicization may be used in this intent-clarifying context rather than a colon.

Also, it seems that it's possible to have your cake and eat it too; i.e., retain the sardonic connotation of the aside while achieving a "more polished effect": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scilicet — "...scilicet, abbreviated as sc. ...is Latin for 'it is permitted to know'. Sc. provides a parenthetic clarification, removes an ambiguity, or supplies a word omitted in preceding text..."


Actually, the use of "read" here is fairly informal and chatty. For a more polished effect, prefer "id est" or "i.e.," viz:

I am bored, i.e., lazy.

  • 1
    Which form of "read" is this? the imperative (rhymes with "reed"), or the form that rhymes with "red"? Oct 8 '18 at 19:09
  • @sshanky "reed" /ɹid/, as in "you should read the preceding text as: <whatever>"
    – Boris
    Dec 28 '19 at 6:08
  • I'd say it is the form that rhymes with "red". (read: I disagree) I think of "read: X" as "red as X". Seems intuitive to me. Apr 21 '20 at 14:19