Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Outcomes - a much abused word

I use the word outcomes a fair bit myself. However, I am finding the misuse of the word increasingly jarring.

The word outcomes acquired its modern usage in the context of the new models of public administration with their emphasis on inputs, outputs and outcomes. Defined in this way, the word is a useful technical term.

My objection to current usage is the way in which outcomes has come to be used as a substitute for that good old fashioned English word results. This is both bad English and sloppy thinking.

Bad English because results is simply a cleaner and shorter word. Sloppy thinking because the results that people refer to when they use the word outcomes are often not outcomes in the technical sense at all but outputs.

I have decided at a personal level to cease using the word outcomes unless the context demands it. The result,I hope, will be some reinstatement of the word result!


Anonymous said...

That could be an excellent outcome! ;)

Jim Belshaw said...

Yes indeed, Neil, But you also point to the difference between outcome - result - and outcomes!