Euphemisms are words which substitute for other words which may have offensive or otherwise insensitive connotations. For instance, people will often say that someone passed away rather than that he or she died. We sometimes also say that someone was laid off rather than fired; even though a lay off is often temporary, many of them do become permanent, and using this term instead of the more blunt fired softens the blow of losing one’s employment. Used with prudence, euphemisms can provide a more sensitive presentation of an idea.
That doesn’t mean that all writers should embrace euphemisms. As a general rule, technical writers should avoid euphemisms. More effective technical writing often employs more directness than is usually conveyed with euphemisms. And more effective technical writers use the simplest word that best conveys the intended meaning.
Consider the example sentence in the cropped graphic above. By itself, the sentence seems completely acceptable. Yet consider the change produced when the writer replaces the euphemism previously owned with used.
So lay off the euphemisms. You’ll strengthen your technical writing, making it more effective. And more effective technical writing makes a more effective presentation of not only your message but also yourself and your brands.