Get Fluent in IT Speak

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement

– Mark Twain (American humorist, 1835 – 1910)

Years ago, I was speaking at a conference in the Ukraine and a live interpreter was translating my speech.   The members of the audience were wearing headphones, so they could hear the translation.  At the break, the interpreter came up to me with a list of words and asked me to explain the meanings.  She asked me to explain what was meant by the word, “y’all.”   I am from Texas and everyone in Texas (and the southern part of the USA) knows what “y’all” means. I explained it was slang for all of you and the plural form of “y’all” is “all y’all.”    The interpreter had a list of other words that I did not even know I used.  I was totally unaware that I used words like “fixin” or “gotta.”[i] Since I do a fair amount of public speaking in places other than the Southern USA, I have tried to eliminate slang and jargon from my vocabulary.   This has helped me become a better communicator.

Confusing Communication

One of the barriers to improving productivity and quality is poor communication.  Over the years I have carefully observed how software developers interact with each other and especially how they interact with the core business, user community and customers.   Software developers are not good at communicating with the core business or with their customers.

It is common in the software domain to have inconsistent terminology and symbol usage whether it is written documentation or actual code. Using inconsistent terminology, symbols and languages causes confusion among readers and it negatively impacts communication, productivity and quality.  Standardization of terminology goes along way to improve both productivity and quality.  Unfortunately software developers often proclaim standardization negatively impacts their creativity and it burdens projects, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Software developers, like any technician, have to communicate with each other and ultimately they have to communicate with the core business.   The choice of vocabulary and the method of communication is not the same between technical teams and with the core business.  The type of communication used to communicate with the core business should not be the same as the technical communication used by software developers.  The core business does not have the skill set to understand the technical jargon.

You should try and eliminate any jargon or technical words from your vocabulary.


[i] Fixin to go is used instead of, “I am getting ready to leave” and “I gotta go” is used instead of “I have to leave.”

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Published in: on June 12, 2009 at 06:00  Leave a Comment  
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