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  • Writer's pictureProf. Lamdan

Some words about word choice

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

Words matter.

A snowflake is not a flurry. A flurry is not a blizzard. A blizzard is not a monsoon. These differences may seem obvious to us because we are accustomed to discussing the weather. But it may be less obvious that an algorithm isn't a database, or that the word "platform" isn't synonymous with the word "app" because we are less familiar with tech vocabulary.

When you are thinking about how to explain and draft laws, policies, and legal arguments it's important to choose the right words. If you conflate the word "statute" with the word "regulation," your whole argument goes sideways as the reader has to stop and discern whether you mean a Congressional decree or an agency-promulgated rule. If you call your home address "biometric data" or if you refer to Apple as a "social media platform," you've revealed that you might not know what you're talking about.

That's why, this semester, we are going to make thesauruses and dictionaries are a regular part of our writing process. We are lucky to live in the age of the internet, where both tools are readily available online. In fact, you can just type "define [whatever word you want]" into any search engine's search bar to look up a word's meaning.

There are also an array of online guides to technology and data terminology. Here are a few glossaries of tech terms that are useful for our class:

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