Who are you calling a user?

It feels like time for a language crusade – so here’s my latest rant: the word ‘user’ when applied to people in technology marketing and writing.

When you’re writing about technology from an IT perspective, you need some way to talk about, you know, those little people who use the technology that you’re buying. Hence the term ‘user’.  Even apart from the negative connotations, it just seems so impersonal. Worse, it implies a perspective where the important thing is the technology and that the people using it are only secondary.

Lately, it’s been bugging me and I’ve set off on a mission to eradicate it from the writing that comes my way, whether I’m writing myself or editing something already existing.

The catch is, it’s trickier than you might think to eliminate. Sometimes I can easily replace it with words like purchaser, employee, customer, visitor, etc.  Sometimes it’s harder — I’ll put in something really vague like people. And if all else fails, we can always go to the slightly more specific “end user” – at least we’ve eliminated the potential drug-related connotations!

Do you have any favorite words you’d like me to set out to eliminate?

On a related theme, Ann Handley of Marketingprofs has a fun video about “Frankenspeak” in marketing: you can watch it on Youtube.  I find it very impactful, in a synergistic way.


2 Comments on “Who are you calling a user?

  1. I thought of how it was said so contemptuously in “Tron: Legacy”! I’ll never think of it as just a neutral word again. But I don’t have a good alternative.

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