Posted by: Jack Henry | May 11, 2023

Editor’s Corner: Misinformation vs. Disinformation – What’s the Difference?

Good morning, curious readers. Recently, I read one of my daily emails from—it covered a pair of often confused words that are very relevant today: misinformation and disinformation.

Let’s start with a definition of and some background about the word misinformation. The first recorded use of this word was in the 1500s. The prefix mis-, means wrong or mistaken. With that in mind, we can deduce that misinformation simply means information that is mistaken or incorrect (I think we knew that). For example, maybe you saw on social media that one of your favorite actors died and you spread the word to your friends and family, and then you found out it isn’t true; the actor is alive and well. You’ve just misinformed all those people. Oops. You didn’t mean any harm; it was all a big mistake. Misinformation is false information, but it is shared with no intention to mislead or misrepresent.

And that leads us right into disinformation. The first recorded use of this word was sometime between 1965 and 1970. According to “It’s a translation of the Russian word dezinformátsiya, in turn based on the French désinfomer (to misinform).” The prefix dis- is used to indicate a reversal or negative instance of the word that follows the prefix. The examples provided by are disrespect and disobedience.

Disinformation is misinformation that is knowingly spread. It is intended to mislead or misrepresent. For example, maybe you are interested in buying a house, so you attend the open house and it seems to be everything you are looking for in a home. You begin talking to someone at the open house who informs you that the house has had a history of plumbing and electrical issues, so you decide to take some time to do more research. After a few days, you find out there is nothing to worry about, but in the meantime, the person who disinformed you has put in a bid and the bid has been accepted. In this case, you were disinformed.

According to the article, “…disinformation is very powerful, destructive, and divisive, and is a common tool of espionage. Countries often have an interest in intentionally spreading fake information to their rival nations, as the Soviet Union and United States did during the Cold War, for instance. When a country or group coordinates a complicated plan of spreading disinformation, it is often referred to as a disinformation campaign.”

What can you do to avoid being misinformed or disinformed? Be sure that the information you are ingesting or sharing is vetted—not just someone’s opinion. Improve your media literacy (the ability to critically analyze for accuracy, credibility, or evidence of bias the content created and consumed in various media, including radio and television, the internet, and social media).

There is a glut of information available to us. It’s more important than ever to make sure the information we receive is unbiased and accurate. Go forth and find the facts.

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | jack henry™

Pronouns she/her/hers

9660 Granite Ridge Drive, San Diego CA 92123

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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