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the problem of "learnings"

One term I've recently been seeing in the draft documents I edit is "learnings". The term is used in a context such as this: "After the trial project completed, we applied our learnings to improve the service." Now, "learning" as a noun is essentially collective, meaning the body of knowledge one has gained through study or experience. It's not treated as a countable noun: you'd never have one learning, two learnings, many learnings. Clearly one should use a word such as "findings", "discoveries", or "lessons" in this context. 

But here's the problem of "learnings": it does make sense for a couple reasons. First, it's a logical extrapolation from "learn" as a verb. We learned about different things—problems, solutions, benefits, efficiencies, methods, best practices—during the trial period. It's logical to think that "things we learn(ed)" could be called "learnings". After all, things we find out are "findings." Second, it's not completely unreasonable to see "learnings" as carrying a particular and desirable shade of meaning apart from the existing correct synonyms. "Facts" doesn't really suit a concept such as "best practices". "Findings" or "discoveries" might be considered too random or happenstance. "Lessons" might be considered to imply a purposeful and directed teaching experience. But everyone knows that you can "learn by doing", that experience can teach you things without there being a concrete teacher. And so "learnings" may be considered to fit into that niche: "the things—methods as well as facts, best practices as well as problem solutions—we learned without the directed guidance of a teacher, but through the experience of a planned and managed project, not by haphazard guesswork without a larger goal." 

Part of my job as an editor is to facilitate communication: to make sure the language used is clear and concise, easily understood by the intended readers. Jargon such as "learnings" makes communication more difficult, because it's a non-standard use of a word, which means most people may not be familiar with that usage and may be confused by it. But this kind of jargon arises in part because someone thinks it makes their communication easier, and it expands and becomes prevalent as others pick up the usage and meaning. So I've realized that I get angry about this not only because it quickly becomes a persistent problem that I'm always having to correct (and explain my correction), but also because it is a useful term for some people in the context of their business, which means that I'm fighting a pointless struggle against the gradual evolution of the language. Someday "learnings" will be considered standard usage, just as the colloquial use of "leverage" and "email" as verbs will become accepted even by the current holdouts. And I just have to grit my teeth and fight against it with every paper I edit, until the editorial board of my corporate overlord finally concedes the battle.

However, the other annoying instance of jargon I've just recently started seeing is using "compute" as a noun to mean "computing resources" or "computer services" or "the act of using a computer": for example, "It provides scalable compute and storage." That has no good justification at all; it just makes you seem stupid. Don't do it.

And regardless of how English changes over time, "irregardless" also always makes you seem stupid.


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