question of semantics

Silly argument came up at the office. Is a final draft really a draft? The idea was put forward that “Final draft” implies a uncompleted work, (the draft part) and a completed work ( the Final part), and may be an oxymoron. We checked the online Webster dictionary and the only entry that seemed to be applicable was

The other references were about hard work and sucking down brews, we sort of decided sucking down brews sounded better. Friday, late lunch and don’t go back.

Is the word draft appropriate to what is considered to be a finished work? Once completed, with no intentions of further revision, is it not a document as opposed to a draft of said document?

I know, it is of small consequence one way or the other. Water cooler argument going on here.

Well, I write screenplays, and at least in regards to a screenplay a “final draft”, though it may be the final draft, is not a completed work until it’s a movie (and very often, the completed movie will have differences from the final draft of the screenplay). So it is indeed that, and the most popular screenwriting software program is even called Final Draft. Aptly named.

Hi Rigamarole!

So what you are saying is that it may be a completed document to the person who wrote it, but it may be changed by others, screen writers for example, and if it goes to film a director may change the transation further. In that sense it is a draft. So one man’s final copy is another man’s rough diamond.

I’d agree with that. I also think that “draft” can be connoted to mean “version” or “iteration.” In which case you could legitimately speak, for example, about the final draft of the Constitution being displayed in the National Archives.

okay, you both have sound arguments. Thanks for the replies, that first round of brews is gonna be on me. I should have known, if you don’t want to know don’t ask! I think in this case the dictionary definition of the word and the real usage of the word vary just a bit. You both put up solid examples of why common usage says it is ok, and I admit I was taking a very narrow view. Please have a brew on my dime, everyone else is gonna…

All the definitions from the original OED explicitly refer to incomplete, preliminary, or rough creations prior to a completed document.
The 1986 update makes no changes to those definitions.
(My library’s access to the current OED generally fails.)

The American Heritage Dictionary , however, provides as definition 12a

although the mid-1980s edition still listed only “preliminary” iterations.

So, (at least) one dictionary publisher has begun to recognize a recent change in usage.
Now, go forth and battle over prescriptivist vs descriptivist definitions.

As I understand it, the final draft is the last rewrite. In previous drafts you have been playing with the wording, the structure of ideas - the meat of the text. After the final draft, all there is left to do is copy editing, and then it’s ready to go.

I think it’s a matter as much of pragmatics as semantics, and it is a growing appeciation of the importance of pragmatics which has been in part, at least, responsible for the “change” in dictionary definitions, such as those cited by Tom, if indeed such change has taken place.

By pragmatics, I mean the study of language from the point of view of the users, and especially of the choices they make, with particular attention to the *effects * their use of language has on other participants in an act of communication.

The thought processes you refer to (“shall we use ‘draft’ or…” - well, exactly…“or what?”) are an example of pragmatics in action. Logically/semantically, you want to use a word like “work, text, document”, but pragmatically you don’t because the final decision for deciding whether it will be accepted as a final anything - or, indeed, ever see the light of day - will likely be made elsewhere.

So, we compromise with “final draft”. There are also aspects of "politeness"and "modesty"involved here, but they’re just other ways into analysis of the same (pragmatic) phenomenon.

In our office the final draft was what we called the last version, the final wording/context before the creation on letterhead and it’s being sent out into the world.
The final draft is on standard paper stock, the document is on the letterhead and subject to be viewed outside of the office.

Thanks tomndebb for putting the final nail in my coffin. The American Heritage Dictionary makes it clear there is a final draft. I could argue that Cecil would insist that the Oxford is the only real dictionary, but at this point I will just crash and burn and pony up the money for the first round. Common usage, and isn’t that the real deal? says it is okay to have a final draft. American Heritage dictionary. Hmmmmphf! a bunch of liberal commies if you ask me! The point of this post was to settle a cooler bet, and clearly I lost. I will pay up and shut up. Thanks for the help guys! And I mean it, the straightdope is the trusted third party to settle any argument in my department. At least this way it is settled and we can argue about something even more mundane next week!