We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Regressive Grammarian: Stop Going Forward

Following my complaint about my neighbors' rising electric bills, General Manager Mike McDowell writes from Heartland Consumer Power District's new multi-million-dollar headquarters that Madison's increased electrical rates aren't Heartland's fault, either. It's the feds, WAPA, generation costs, even environmental regulations. And you, Madison power users:

Customers have the ultimate control of their use of energy.... We will work hard to restrain these costs going forward. And we need our customers to help us by using energy as efficiently as possible [Mike McDowell, "Electric Rates Are Increasing Across the Nation," HCPDBlog, 2010.11.12].

Rule #1 of American management-speak: evade responsibility.

Rule#2: Use the phrase going forward.

Going forward (and variations like moving forward) is one of the most superfluous fluff phrases in contemporary English. We're all moving forward through time, every second. McDowell's second sentence above—and every sentence using that phrase not referring to physical movement—would mean exactly the same thing without it. We will work hard to restrain those costs—period.

Going forward doesn't add to our understanding of the actual situation. It is press-release propaganda, inserted to create an impression that the speaker and the speaker's organization are progressive, proactive, forward-looking... and eminently desirous that we stop paying attention to what just happened, like an electric rate hike, the release of your boss's lengthy court record, an uncomfortable suggestion that Sarah Palin might campaign for you, or the President's advocacy for a health care reform bill that you're afraid might cost you votes back home.

Everyone, try word efficiency: drop going forward from your management-speak lexicon.

Read more:
  1. The IT folks at TechTarget find going forward good management-speak: "...it means enough to be useful while also being suitably vague."
  2. Google Rep. Herseth Sandlin's House website for going forward. I get 25 results.
  3. This Microsoft developer was with me three years ago.
  4. We can track annoyance with going forward back at least five years... I wonder what management guru started this usage?


  1. May I suggest we start a movement that strives to remove the phrase "going forward" from our contemporary phraseology and instead use "at the end of the day" in its place and then throw in a few "likes" and "you knows".

  2. Yeah, we have to get proactive.

    I think I just committed THE capital grammatical offense.

  3. I think you're onto something, Cory. It's not so much an empty cliché problem as it is a calligraphic and spelling problem. There's one possible branding solution "with legs" (as we say in the ad biz.)

    First, change the slogan to read,

    "We're movin' 4 words."

    This will give you that "dumbed down,
    populist look that's been all the bomb
    in political circles of late, apparent misspell
    and all.

    But the BEST part is, you'll be able to actually
    KEEP your promise! Check it out:

    1. We're movin' 4 words.
    2. We're 4 movin' words.
    3. Were 4 words movin'?
    4. 4 words were movin'.
    5. etc.

    Get the right font and colors and stuff, and you could really run with it, don'cha think?

    At the end of the day? With the right optics?

    And metrics?

    You know?

  4. (aloud)I really appreciate these questions.{under his/her breath) blank, blank obnoxious intellectuals, journalists, voters..

    I detest "gunna" for the awkward "going to" which usually can be replaced with "will".

    The distinction between "less" and "fewer" also seems to be lost on those who apparently can't distinguish between a river or a pile of wheat and a dozen people or....


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.