My Inaugural View of Annual Events
Thursday, 06 January 2011 01:10

guyTime and time again, I see events referred to as "First Annual..." and begin to experience an odd feeling of literature uneasiness. As a media program graduate, I find journalism quite interesting, and recently spent some time researching "First Annual" vs. "Inaugural"

By calling an event "the First Annual", one is assuming that the event is going to happen every year for a number of years. Therefore, before ground year's event is already committed. I'll expand on the assumption, or almost pretentiousness, momentarily.

Starting off, The Associated Press Stylebook states:

Annual – An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years. Do not use the term first annual. Instead, note that sponsors plan to hold an event annually.

Many (most/all) Newsroom editors will scratch the term "First Annual" simply based on the above, sometimes substituting the word "Inaugural."

Next, the word "Inaugural", according to, means:

Inaugural - marking the beginning of a new venture, series, etc.: the inaugural run of the pony express.

Editors will allow "the inaugural", because it explains the intentions of the event organizers to repeat the event.

From event experience, many "First Annuals" drop off, never to continue in their format or original direction, though that happens for many reasons (rain-outs, lack of volunteer power, budget changes, decisive errors, etc.) So, the term Annual carries prestige, because of it's tenure, that a "First Annual" would negate. And most importantly, an organizer exudes a lot of self belief when they commit to a second event after a "guaranteed" first event success, not aware of every unique variable; thus, perceived by some non-involved people as "pretentiousness".

Consider alternatively what if the event is an uber-success and turns into a bi-annual event? Or is uber-work and needs a break like the Olympics, ie. every four years? Until the first occurrence, it is a disservice to the organizers, attendees and the media to assume it will be under the same parameters the following calender year.

So, accepting Style and Language reasons about the first part (ha), next comes the confusing part where literacy meets mathematics (not when x = 3 + 1, or pie = 3.14... whump-wow). After the inaugural event, what is the second?

I agree with poster Tom at where this was discussed who explains -

The first time you do something that is intended to initiate a series of similar events is the inaugral. Which is the definition of the word – i.e. serving to set in motion; “the magazine’s inaugural issue”;
The second time you do it is the FIRST annual because it is the FIRST time you are holding it again at the agreed frequency.

A classic example of this would be one's Birthday: when you turn One, it's your First Birthday, expanded to being your First Annual Birthday. Yeah, when you're born, it's your inaugural Birthday (first in series), but not your First Birthday, that's when you turn One!

Another example would be "the turn of the century", though it's 2011 (twenty-eleven), it's referred to as the 21st Century. (example from:

For style points, if an event has happened annually and consecutively for 8 years, it would be the 7th Annual or 8th Edition of the ....

And it's not a "who cares" thing...once the word Annual is included in the title, an educated reader will pose one of two questions, either, "how many years has this event REALLY been going, plus or minus the annual number?" or, "how high do these people think of themselves" (or how high was the writer...)


This is the second time I've evaluated verbiage and linguistics within my realm: click here to read my explanation of the Difference between an Average and an Aggregate