Microspeak: Going forward

The jargon phrase going forward has largely replaced the more mundane equivalent from now on. It appears that I'm not the only person who is bothered by this phrase. Sample usages:

  • We discussed the membership and timeframe for support team meetings going forward.
  • There will be change to the status reports going forward.
  • Going forward we will be doing this for every milestone.

Notice that the phrase going forward usually adds little to the sentence. You can delete it from all of the sentences above and nobody would notice a difference.

Comments (37)
  1. Rob H says:

    Oddly enough, I don’t really mind this:

    Either phrase specifically calls out the difference between the past and the future. "Going forward, we’re giving full support to Feature Y"; we haven’t in the past, but we will be in the future.

    Compared to "from now on", "going forward" sounds less imperious–less like an order, more like a statement of fact. Also, it may indicate that the future change is still in the near future, not immediately.

    "Going forward, we’re giving full support to Feature Y"–we’ll get it included in our databases and systems and have a team start working on it.

    "From now on, we’re giving full support to Feature Y"–So start making that fix to Feature Y you’ve been putting off, already.

  2. Antonio D says:

    Dear Rob H,

    I agree that "going forward" has a less imperious sound than "from now on".

    But for the first case I do not think it is necessary to call the difference between past and future. As Raymond said "usually it adds little to the sentence". In your example using the correct tense for the verb giving would have been enough.

    Also remember that "the exception makes the rule" so if you had to say "we are going to give full support to feature Y" it is generally understood that so far you have not or there would be no need for the statement.

    "Going forward" or "from now on" would have added little to the sentence.

  3. Miles Archer says:

    This isn’t just microspeak. It’s everywhere. And, it you’re right, it sucks.

  4. James says:

    "Fry, remember what I told you about always ending your stories a sentence earlier?"

    I’ve always hated this sort of ‘padding’ in sentences and stories – it adds nothing, which means it’s just a waste of time/words/bytes – so why put it there?!

  5. MSDN Archive says:


    "From now on" isn’t always an acceptable substitute, but in those cases "going forward" is usually fine.

  6. markheath says:

    On a related note, I just listened to a great interview where a board member of a sports club prefaced everything he said with "I think":

    "I think we’re delighted with these results…"

    "I think we think that …"

  7. John S. says:

    At the end of the day, both "going forward" and "at the end of the day" need to be banished from the lexicon.

  8. MikeC says:

    "Going/Moving Forward" is a contender for games of bullsh*t bingo almost as much as "outside the box", "blue-sky", or, gods forbid, "synergising strategy". (all popular at my place of employment at the moment. Especially the last.)

    They all hurt, and the earplugs only help a little…

  9. Andy says:

    It may not add much to the sentence, the meeting, the work anybody does as a result or the bottom line of the company but you are missing the point…. it makes the speaker of the phrase feel very, very important and thats important when you are chasing the dream of being a VP becuase you lost all your technical skills when you agreed to become a manager in return for 800 shares of worthless stock 10 years ago ;-)

  10. skst says:

    Seriously. This mindless filler has bothered me from the first time I heard it. Does the speaker think the listeners are so confused they need to be told we can’t change the past? Do people have trouble understanding that the past is inviolable so the only place to make changes is "from here on out"?

    Can anyone describe a situation where "going forward" disambiguates a statement?

    John S.: I also agree about "at the end of the day." Ugh!

  11. MM says:

    > "Going forward" or "from now on" would have added little to the sentence.

    A language is not a protocol. It does not only tell a message, but also feelings, impressions, etc.

    "From now on" implies "immediately" and "must".

    "Going forward" implies "as soon as possible" and "should".

    Nothing, implies.. nothing of the above.

    There is no reason to gzip spoken language.

  12. Cody says:

    [Do people have trouble understanding that the past is inviolable so the only place to make changes is "from here on out"?]

    Considering the number of times Raymond has had to tell readers that had he had a time machine things would be different:  Yes.

  13. JW says:

    We’re human beings, not computers. We don’t compose the shortest sentences that convey our meanings, especially when speaking. I think that phrase annoys us because it sounds corporate and bureaucratic, not because it’s unnecessary.

    After all, there are plenty of less annoying ways for us to say that something’s in the future. They’re all equally redundant, but sometimes we use them anyway. There are times when we want to emphaize the future-ness of an event, if that aspect of it is important to us.

  14. nickd says:

    My hatred is reserved for the related but worse ‘at this moment in time’. Try saying ‘now’ instead. It’s great!

  15. Qian says:

    It’s definitely everywhere.  I remember reading the transcript of a conference call with Google where a reporter asked about their hiring plans "on a go-forward basis".  To paraphrase Val Kilmer from Real Genius, "Go-forward basis?  Who talks like that?!"

  16. Steve Nuchia says:

    I believe the origin of this phrase can be traced to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules for "forward looking statements" in the communications of publicly traded corporations.  They require that statements about the future be weasel-worded and the "going forward" construction seems to have migrated from CEO speaches into the general business vocabulary.

  17. Qian says:

    @Nickd, I’m with you, except for me it’s the variation "at this point in time."  I’m trying to work "at this point in space" into my own speech as much as possible just to achieve some kind of dimensional balance.

  18. Scott says:

    There was a great Dilbert where the boss says something about "going forward," and Dilbert says, "Thanks for ruling out time travel.  You’re usually not that helpful."

  19. Scott says:

    Oh, and if we’re doing nits in general, how about "utilize"?  Plain and simple "use" does the job just as well 99.9% of the time.

  20. Jules says:

    Scott: there’s also one where in the first panel, the PHB is reading a book on meditation techniques or something like that, and says he must clear his minds of all thoughts.  Panel two, he says "At the end of the day we’ll be in a market place on a going forward basis".  Panel three, Dilbert (who has just walked into his office) says "I’ll come back when you’ve finished practicing being useless."

  21. Aaron says:

    I’ve seen this construct used as a verb tense modifier before.  This would look like: "Going forward, we do X every milestone".  This modifies the verb ‘to do’ from the present tense to future progressive tense.  

    Going forward we don’t use the phrase ‘going forward’.

  22. Bryan says:

    I use the phrase "At this point in time" a lot in my daily customer conversations.  I hate it.  I try to not use it, but I find myself falling back to it.

  23. I like "going forward" because I think that it paints a positive picture about the future rather than wallowing in the past.  At least when I use it that’s my intent and that’s how I’ve heard it used for the most part.

    Often it’s used when the previous history is contentous; it marks a point when we should let go from our angst/grief over past decisions and make a fresh new decision that’s the best in the current context.

  24. Tim says:

    I don’t hate this as much as using the verb ‘ask’ as a ‘noun’, supposedly as a synonym for request (or possibly demand).  Raymond has probably already blogged about this one.

    I’m with Val Kilmer – who talks like that?

  25. Mikkin says:

    This silly phrase is widely used, not just in Microspeak. The verb "to go" is usually not germane to the idea being expressed, even when the idea is not redundant. English already has a good word for this: "Henceforth."

    I try not to laugh at people who think they sound sophisticated when they are actually using dumbed-down language. Heretofore I have not tried very hard, but henceforth I shall try harder.

  26. Frederick says:

    While we’re at it, using “ask” to mean “request” is super-super-annoying.  Henceforth, going forward from now on, people should return to using “request” where they heretofore used “ask” in a misbegotten fashion.

    [Especially since most of the time, when people say “ask” they actually mean “demand.” -Raymond]
  27. John D says:

    "from now on" is useful because it clarifies that something has changed. "going forward" is mostly trash. people think communication hinges on being schmaltzy and "colorful". hell, why not "as we proceed"? as a technical writer, throwing away junk is my specialty. verbal speech is prone to little gadgets like these. i don’t publish this junk. for one thing, it might not translate.

  28. dislyxec says:

    From TMQ on ESPN.com regarding the Patriots cheating:

    And I asked, if there was nothing incriminating in the New England documents, why was the league in such a hurry to shred them? First, Aiello wrote, "The purpose of destroying the tapes and related documents was to eliminate any advantage they might have given the Patriots going forward and ensure a level playing field for all 32 teams."

    AIEEEE. What does that even mean?

  29. Scott says:

    This originated way back in Junior High English class.  Whenever I wrote a paper, I was always told to use a thesaurus so I don’t repeatedly use the same words and phrases.  What you’re describing is just a verbal adaptation of that rule.

  30. Drew Hoskins says:

    I used to be able to accurately predict who was a PM and who wasn’t by whether they used this term.  But now it’s more widespread.

  31. mvadu says:

    Hi, Raymond.. what happend to you this week.. only one post a day.. it used to be two posts everyday sharp@7AM.. don’t change the practises.. it should be backword compatible..:)

    [Actually, it’s usually just one post a day. Check the archives for confirmation. If you like, I’ll change it to one post every other day, just to get the average back to 1. -Raymond]
  32. mvadu says:

    No Please.. “Going forward” I would love to see two post a day.. one pure techie topic and another like this one..

    Any way.. check the archive.. almost from June 2004 you (or your automated script) are posting 2 posts a day on an average.

    Just check posts/per month with no of working days in that month.

    [You have incorrectly reverse-engineered my posting policy. -Raymond]
  33. Ian says:

    The expressions ‘from now on’ and ‘henceforth’ imply some kind of change.

    I had no idea that ‘going forward’ carries a similar meaning (or any meaning at all for that matter).

  34. Mikkin says:

    At the risk of incurring Raymond’s ire for commenting twice on the same post, I just realized why people say this. "Going forward" tries to imply that the change represents some kind of forward progress. It is probably a good indicator that one is going nowhere.

  35. Drak says:

    As far as I am concerned ‘going forward’ is bad English (I’m not a native English speaker, but this just sounds plain wrong).

    A car can go forward, people can go forward, but using ‘going forward’ in this way is just meaningless.

    "Going forward, we have left the previous topic behind us"

    Now that’s a good use of going forward ;)

  36. AdamV says:

    I don’t particularly like "going forward", but as Mikkin says, it is trying to convey the idea that <foo> is a good thing. If you don’t like "from now on" for being too direct, try "in the future" (although that does not give people any idea when, so maybe "in the future we’ll fix that bug" is not very reassuring.

    I disagree that "going forward" necessarily means only in the future, it implies to me some continuity from the past. "The pilot was successful, we’ve started rolling out, so going forward everyone will be using Wingnut version 3"

    It is still pretty hateful because of its ubiquity and frequent misuse (when time travel is clearly out of scope).

    @Scott – use and utilis[z]e have distinct meanings, strictly speaking.

    You use something for its intended purpose (the use for which it was intended), whereas you utilise something as a kind of workaround, finding a new way for it to be useful. I normally use a can opener for opening tins of beans, but I could utilise a power saw or even a rock if I had to.

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