was/is horrific/horrifying/dreadful

Silverobama

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Hi.

I read a piece of news posted by Stephen last night. It was about a 13-year-old girl killing her classmate out of jealousy. The news was true but took place six years ago; it was confirmed by the local police.
I then asked the question on WR and was told that I can use either "That was dreadful" and "That was terrrifying".

Later a native speaker told me he wasn't sure if "dreadful" was the best word here to use and thinks that "horrific" is better, also he thinks it's better to use "is" because I am talking about my reaction to the incident but not the incident itself. (But, he wasn't sure about his answers.)

My question is: which of the following is the best (in your professional opinion as an English teacher) to mean that "when I read the new, I was surprised because a little girl was so cruel".

That was/is horrific/dreadful/horrifying.
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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I see no difference- it's all vile regardless of the tense or the adjective. We live in a world where all memes are hilarious, but I don't see that this poverty of language choice has to apply to everything- you should be free to express your shock and disgust at the murder of a child without worrying whether Twitter agrees with your choice of adjective.
 

Silverobama

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I see no difference- it's all vile regardless of the tense or the adjective. We live in a world where all memes are hilarious, but I don't see that this poverty of language choice has to apply to everything- you should be free to express your shock and disgust at the murder of a child without worrying whether Twitter agrees with your choice of adjective.
But Tdol, I wanted to learn the idiomatic way to use the word. So I didn't know which one suits here the most. I think these three adjectives are all okay, but there must be a difference between horrific and horrifying, maybe one isn't suitable to my context? I don't know. I think the past tense is better because when I said "That was....", I meant "the news was....". So I don't understand why "is" is okay better here.
 

jutfrank

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Mar 5, 2014
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Choose the word based on what you mean. All the words you mention (terrifying/horrific/horrifying/dreadful) have different meanings.

If you really do mean to express that you were 'surprised', then say that. You might want to say that you were 'shocked' or that the story was 'shocking'.
 
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