Redact vs retract

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Redact and retract are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation, and are often confused. We will examine the definitions of the words redact and retract, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Redact means to edit something to make in suitable for distribution or publication. One may redact a document in order to spare someone embarrassment, to protect the security of a person or a nation or for legal reasons. Transcripts in which speakers swear or use four-letter words are often redacted, as are government documents that are released to the public and may contain information vital to national security. The word redact is a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are redacts, redacted and redacting. The word redact is derived from the Latin word redactus, which means to reduce, to drive back, to call in.

Retract means to draw in, to draw back, to withdraw something such as a question in a court of law. People often retract a statement or an assertion when it causes them legal trouble. However, retract may also may be used literally to describe something such as drawing back one’s hand from a flame or drawing in a mechanical arm on a machine. The word retract may be used as a transitive or an intransitive verb, related words are retracts, retracted, retracting. Retract is derived from the Latin word retractus, which means to draw back.


On Monday, barrister for the coroner Ronan Daly told the court that following consideration of whether the files would need to be redacted due to containing sensitive information, both the Garda and the PSNI have agreed that they can be submitted largely intact. (The Belfast Telegraph)

“In a perfect world, if we had free cameras, free storage and someone to redact it, I’d be on top of it today,” Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith said. (The Green Bay Press Gazette)

After receiving the original letter from Wynne’s lawyer, Brown would not retract his comments or apologize for them and now after receiving the follow-up notice of libel, his position is unchanged. (The National Post)

In recent weeks, Palestinian officials have stepped up calls for London to retract its support for a Jewish homeland in the area of the former British mandate, arguing that the land didn’t belong to Britain and that it therefore had no right to promise it to the Zionist movement. (The Times of Israel)