Microsoft Speak

I've been at Microsoft for just on 6 months now and I guess that's a reasonable amount of time to have settled in and got an impression of the place from the inside. One thing that's struck me (especially having been an independent contractor for the 7 years prior to starting here) is the localised version of the language spoken here. It's not just the TLAs and the code names that I'm talking about (although there are enough of those), it's mannerisms as well. The one that I notice most often (and that I've discovered that I've subconsciously adopted) is prefixing the answer to any question with the word "So". Here's an example:


Q: What's Microsoft's roadmap for the release of Visual Studio 2005?


A: So, what we've announce publicly is … < answer continues here >


This seems to just happen, regardless of the context of the conversation or audience, but especially when resuming an inturrupted conversation.


The next idiosyncrasy we adopt is the use of the word "right" to confirm that our interlocutor agrees with the position we've put forward. This might sound like fairly standard practice, but it seems we've made it into an art form. It generally gets used either when we're not sure of the position even though we're putting it forward as gospel (as in "I know it doesn't work that way yet, but that's going to be included in beta 2, right?") or when we're so sure of the position that the conversation probably shouldn't even be happening. It seems not to be used in the middle ground situation (where the speaker knows the answer, but doesn't expect the audience to know it as well).


We speak a lot about things happening in the <insert product codeword here> timeframe. I guess this one makes some sense. It's much more accurate to say that "Object Spaces will be released in the Longhorn timeframe" than to try to give a month and year. It just strikes me as interesting every time this happens (and trust me, it happens a lot).


I'm not from a very corporate background (I worked at a university for 3 years before my 7 years as an independent), so I'm not sure how widespread the phrase "going forward" is (as in, "that's our plan going forward). I would guess that it's generally not uncommon, but it's endemic where I work. It seems a little more "jargony" than something like "from now on" or "in the future". It's another phrase that I notice every time it's used, and one that makes me cringe whenever I catch myself using it.


Finally the phrase that I hear most often is


dramatically provide access to mission-critical leadership skills and assertively coordinate world-class paradigms for 100% customer satisfaction


Only kidding -- I got that one from the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator.

Comments (11)

  1. Hahaha,

    G’day Andrew!

    So, I covered this exact topic in a blog the other week!

    Check it out:

    Got some funny feedback on that one 🙂

  2. Funny that you comment on this, Andrew. I noticed this before I was hired by Microsoft years ago, and I’ve noticed it even more since I’ve been with the company. And, similar to your experience, I’ve started incorporating it into my conversations. It must be the brain transplant we all received when we were hired. 🙂

    Another word that I notice we like to use is "leverage." I’ve never heard it used as much as it is at Microsoft.

  3. KC Lemson says:

    Joel Spolsky rants about the "So" as well, I never even noticed that I do it until he mentioned it.

    Here are some other favorites of mine:

  4. Hi KC, I went over to Joel’s site to look for the rant, but couldn’t find it. Any further pointers?

  5. Jekke says:

    Sentence precursors can have an interesting effect on a speaker’s personality. Don’t believe me? Spend a day starting every sentence with "why" and tell me you don’t start to feel like a 1950s sit com character.

  6. KC Lemson says:

    Andrew: I first saw it in, I think he’s commented elsewhere with it too.

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