Monday, September 26, 2011

"Addressing issues"

In several posts (e.g., here), I have discussed the abuse of the word issues. Today I discuss the abuse of the transitive verb address., which is often abused with issues.

For example, on September 18, 2011, I received this notice from Adobe Systems:

Update is ready to install

This update addresses customer issues and security vulnerabilities. Adobe recommends that you always install the latest updates


I will set aside the question of what a “customer issue” may be; the term is as vague as the term “health issue,” which I discussed here.

To say a software update “addresses issues” is almost certainly an understatement. During my career as a technical writer, I worked with a great many programmers; I never saw any of them write an update that merely addressed (paid attention to or dealt with) something. Their updates did more than address something; for example, they fixed a problem, improved a function, or simplified an process.

So, when Adobe Systems says it has addressed something, the company is understating what it actually did.

The Takeaway: If you write for a company, give the company credit for what it achieves. For example, if the company has fixed a problem, say so. Don’t undersell the company by using effete affectations such as saying “addressed the issue.”

See disclaimer.

1 comment:

  1. Sensible advice in general - but I suspect language such as 'addresses issues' is all that's allowed by Adobe's PR department.

    Going into an exhaustive description of each problem corrected would suggest that Adobe's software is full of errors; focus would be shifted from the fixes in favor of the idea that the software was riddled with problems from the beginning.