Microspeak: Net out

It started out in finance, but the term has crept into more mainstream usage (at least within Microsoft) and along the way picked up its own meaning:

Where did we net out on this?

Customers want you to net out the business value.

Note any significant changes to the forecast and explain the reasons why. Net out changes to start conversation.

Include the following points in your presentation:

  1. ...
  2. Net out action plan moving forward

The next citation is a bullet point from a PowerPoint slide:

Each district/vertical will answer/report back on:

  • ...
  • Net out top 3 business asks

(I also have some finance citations, but they aren't relevant to Microspeak, so I've left them out.)

In finance, to net out is to cancel out positive and negative amounts. For example, you might net out an account by cancelling amounts owed against amounts due in order to eliminate offsetting transactions. When calculating tax liability, you net out your gains against your losses to determine your net change for the tax period.

In Microspeak, well, I'm not sure what it means. In that first citation, it appears to be a synonym for come to a conclusion. The question appears to be a rephrasing of "What was our conclusion on this?" or "What did we finally decide on this?"

In the second citation, it appears to be a synonym for summarize in terms of net benefit/loss. "Customers want you to show the net benefit of the product."

In the third citation, it appears to be used merely to mean summarize.

And in the final two citations, it appears to be simply a verb meaning to produce.

Note that net out is unrelated to that other Microspeak phrase net net, discussed earlier.

Comments (5)
  1. James F says:

    The phrase: "Net out top 3 business asks", smacks of a low, plebeian upbringing, unfit for the high position which the writer of said memorandum surely occupied. Such abuse of the English language will go on unfettered until the noble souls rise up and expunge such blasphemy by reintroducing corporal punishment in the grammar schools.

  2. It’s charming how many at Microsoft are using words whose meaning isn’t known by anybody… I have this theory that any large corporation slowly converts into a bureaucratic organization, much like a government. If that’s true, any executives would tend to act as politicians. This would explain the existence of Microspeak as a kind of politicians’ jargon, used only inside the company that originated it. It would be interesting to know if this happens at other big corporations.

  3. Mark (The other Mark) says:


    Yes, it happens are other large organizations. Federal Government, State Government, Non-Profits, and Corporations.

    Or that’s been my experience. You eventually end up with someone marginally incompetent in power, they fake it by making stuff up, the habit gets imitated, not only but especially by other incompetents, and eventually you end up with "Net out top 3 business asks".

    The person who is actually using the phrase might be a valuable employee, who is just imitating others to fit in. But someone started using those phrases…

    I think it’s just the nature of the beast when you reach a certain size.

  4. Michael G says:

    What’s the net net after you net out the net .NET balance sheet?

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