The esteemed Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘vehement’ as “marked by forceful energy… intensely emotional … deeply felt … forcibly expressed.” The synonyms include aggressive, assertive, dynamic, emphatic, energetic, forceful, full-blooded, muscular, resounding, strenuous, vigorous, and violent.
But in media and public relations, ‘vehement’ is used almost exclusively as part of a denial, or in opposition to something:
‘Coca-Cola says it vehemently disagrees with the coroner’s findings…’
‘Findus also vehemently denied that horsemeat in its beef lasagne…’
‘Sorenson, R-Milo, says he “vehemently” denies wrongdoing…’
You see the point. It’s worth noting that ‘adamantly’ often is used interchangeably with ‘vehemently,’ although they are not quite synonymous. The adjective adamant is defined (Merriam-Webster) as “unshakable or insistent especially in maintaining a position or opinion: unyielding.” Public denials can also be ‘categorical.’
Vehement deserves better than to be attached to politicians, athletes and defendants!
In media, denials should just stand on their own. Unless writers or editors witness an ‘intensely emotional’ or ‘forcibly expressed’ denial, don’t describe it as “vehement.”
Its overuse calls into question the simple denial.
“Hey, honey, I just read in our somehow surviving daily newspaper that the mayor denied those allegations.” Response: “Wait, did he vehemently deny them, or just deny them? Unless it was a vehement denial, I’m afraid I don’t believe the mayor!”