Difference Between Factoid and Factlet

A “factoid” refers to a brief or trivial piece of information that is presented as a fact, but is actually false. At The Fact Site, we pride ourselves on being able to distinguish between true and false facts. One of these terms is commonly misused to refer to a fake fact. Can you guess which one it is and why? Take a guess before reading on.

The term “factoid” is used to describe a falsehood that is presented so often that it is accepted as truth. The term was first coined by Norman Mailer in 1973 and he defined it as “facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper.” The word is a combination of “fact” and “oid,” meaning similar but not the same. The CNN Headline News TV Channel popularized the term by using it to describe interesting facts during newscasts in the 1980s and 1990s, further contributing to the misconception that it refers to a true fact. However, historian Dion Smythe states that factoids are opinions based on historical opinions, rather than factual and historical information.

The correct term for a small and interesting piece of factual information is “factlet,” although its origins are unclear. William Safire is credited with advocating for the use of “factlet” over “factoid” in his “On Language” column, but he also acknowledged that the word was already in use and its origins were unknown. To be more accurate, use “factlet” instead of “factoid” in your vocabulary.

FAQ

1. What is a factoid?

A factoid is a piece of information that is often repeated and believed to be true but is actually false or fabricated. The term was coined by Norman Mailer in his 1973 book “Marilyn”. Factoids are often used in media to attract attention and create interest, but they can be misleading and harmful.

2. What is a factlet?

A factlet is a small piece of true information that is interesting or unusual but not necessarily significant. Factlets are often used in trivia games or as conversation starters. They are different from factoids because they are not false or fabricated.

3. Can factoids be harmful?

Yes, factoids can be harmful because they can spread misinformation and create confusion. They can also be used to manipulate people’s opinions or beliefs. It is important to fact-check information before accepting it as true.

4. Are factlets more trustworthy than factoids?

Factlets are generally more trustworthy than factoids because they are based on true information. However, it is still important to verify the accuracy of factlets before sharing them.

5. Why do people use factoids?

People use factoids to attract attention and create interest. They can be used in advertising, media, and social media to grab people’s attention and generate buzz. However, using factoids can be unethical if they are false or misleading.

6. Are factoids and fake news the same thing?

Factoids and fake news are similar in that they are both false or misleading information. However, factoids are often based on a kernel of truth, while fake news is completely fabricated. Fake news is also often used for political or ideological purposes.

7. How can you avoid spreading factoids?

To avoid spreading factoids, it is important to fact-check information before sharing it. You can use reputable sources to verify the accuracy of information. You can also be skeptical of information that seems too good to be true or that is not backed up by evidence.

8. Are factoids always intentional lies?

No, factoids are not always intentional lies. Sometimes people repeat information that they believe to be true but that is actually false. Other times, factoids are spread unintentionally through social media or word of mouth.

9. Is it ever okay to use factoids?

It is generally not okay to use factoids because they can be misleading and harmful. However, if you are using factoids for entertainment purposes, such as in a trivia game, it is important to make it clear that the information is not necessarily accurate.

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