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Pretext vs Pretense

Judy Vorfeld

Pretext & Pretense
Pretext is a false rea­son given to con­ceal a truth, and comes from a word mean­ing “to weave, before, pre­tend.” Think of a pre­text as hav­ing “tex­ture, a cloth, a cover-up.” Dana told every­one she was laid off because of the econ­omy but she was really fired. She never said she was laid off, but she acted as if that was the case, then promptly changed the subject.

Pretense comes from a word mean­ing alleged. Pretense is usu­ally an unsup­ported claim, often about an accom­plish­ment; it’s make-believe, a false show or pro­fes­sion. AP Stylebook 2014 says pre­tense is a more overt act intended to con­ceal per­sonal feelings.

Pretext, then, is often used to hide the truth, while pre­tense is com­monly used to stretch the truth.


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