Going BackwardDeleting "Going Forward"
May 7, 2009
Sometimes, a plane will crash. And the survivors will find themselves marooned on a mysterious island, with monsters made of black dust and a group of “others” with a diabolical, bug-eyed leader. And if you happen to be one of these survivors, you may become confused about time.
Time will jump from the present to the past, no wait, not the past, this time we’re in the future! And as such, you may feel tempted to use the phrase “going forward.” You know, just to keep things straight. To keep the past and the future in their rightful places.
If you do not happen to be one of these poor “Lost” souls, at the mercy of some clearly over-caffeinated television writers, you have absolutely no reason to use these two hollow words. After all, the overwhelming majority of humans recognize the difference between past and future, and know in which direction we’re heading, don’t we?
Apparently, for many in the financial world (and business in general) the answer to this question is no, resulting in an insatiable desire to clarify the direction of the universe as “going forward.” Of course, I realize this now ubiquitous phrase is not particularly new, and I’m sure we could come up with many other equally annoying examples without trying very hard.
The reason I chose to single out “going forward” and to do so now is that just yesterday I saw what could be the most egregious use to date, proof that this verbal phenomenon has gone beyond a passing language trend and embedded itself into the psyches of hordes of otherwise smart people across the country.
Exhibit A: “Our review will evaluate X’s efforts to reduce the uncertainties with debt obligations and devise a viable going-forward plan.”
For obvious reasons, I have deleted any information that might reveal the identity of the perpetrator. Let me just say that if this person truly believes it possible to devise a “plan” that goes backward, either he has a really excellent time traveling telephone booth, in which case I say: Dude, totally call me. Or, he’s just being silly.
The thing is, people, these habits, once so deeply ingrained are hard to break. But we really ought to try and break them. They serve no purpose other than to make you sound affected. I’ve heard arguments that “going forward” comes across as less bossy than “from now on.” But neither of them are necessary.
Exhibit B: Going forward, you Chrysler debt holders should stock up on tissues and whisky. From now on, you Chrysler debt holders should stock up on tissues and whisky. You Chrysler debt holders should stock up on tissues and whisky.
See, simple is best.