Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Geeky Words

Geeky words we hate to hear:

•Content. As in, "Web content." Ugh. If you mean"Web pages," say "Web pages." If you mean "music,"
say "music." Nobody outside the tech industry says "content" when they mean "what's on your player" or "what's on your Web site."

•Enable. Who on earth says, "Enable the GPS function"?
Only user-manual writers and computer-book
authors. Say "Turn on GPS" instead.

•URL. This one's common, but I still can't stand it.
"Uniform Resource Locator"? Oh, thank you– that
helps. NOT! I use "Web address." Same number of
syllables, and crystal-clear.

•Device. You know what's weird? Cellphone companies never
actually use the term "cellphone." They always use the word "device,"
as in the winceinducing sentence, "The user can transfer D.R.M.–protected
content to their device." Look, I get it: these days, cellphones do
more than make phone calls. You don't need to abandon the term
" cellphone" for that reason; the meaning of "cellphone" has
alreadyexpanded to accommodate its new functions. If you
say "cellphone," your audience already understands
that it means "a gadget that makes calls, gets on the
Internet and takes crummy pictures."

•Dialog. The term "dialog box" is already a problem,
since it doesn't really identify what it is (a message
box on the screen, forcing you to answer a question–
like how many copies of a printout you want). But
unfortunately, there's absolutely no alternative. And
shortening this to "dialog" is definitely a step in the
wrong direction.

•E-mail client. Originally, someone coined "client"
to distinguish your computer's e-mail program from
the computer that dishes it out (the server). But when
you're not explicitly trying to make that differentiation,
just say "e-mail program." The only people with
e-mail clients are the lawyers who represent Outlook
and Gmail.

•Functionality. WOW, do I despise this pretentious
word. Five syllables–ooh, what a knowledgeable person
you must be! It means "feature." Say "feature."

•LCD. What I hate about this word is that it doesn't
say what it is ("the screen"). And even if you spell out
what it means in parentheses, you still haven't told
readers what the heck you're talking about. ("Liquid
crystal display? Ohhh, so THAT'S what it means.")

•PDA. Here's another ridiculous term–ridiculous
because it's not self-explanatory. "Personal digital assistant?"
Give me a break.

•RAM. Here again, there's a plain-English word that
does the same job without the intimidation: memory.
That's a word that says what it means.

•Support. I don't mean "support" as in "tech support,"
although even that term is a corporate creepy
cop-out (it means "help line"). No, I mean the verb, as
in, "The laptop supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth." In no
other corner of modern discourse is "support" used
that way. I use "has," "offers" or "works with."

•User. There are two industries that refer to their
customers as "users" -technology and illegal drugs.
When you're writing about computers, there's almost
never a sentence where you couldn't substitute
"you" or, worst case, "the customer" as the noun and
thereby improve the sentence. Instead of saying, "The
user can, at his or her option, elect to remove this
functionality," say, "You can turn this feature off." It's
not only clearer, but it gets you out of the awkward
"his or her" bit.

Courtesy Pogue’s Anti-Jargon Dictionary by David Pogue, NY Times (excerpts)

No comments: