QUERY: Substitute for "leverage"?

Subject: QUERY: Substitute for "leverage"?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2001 12:24:38 -0500

Trevor Booth reports <<The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical
Publications says to replace the word "leverage" with "use": does anyone
have any experience using this term?>>

As usual, Microsoft misses the boat when it comes to pronouncing on style
and usage. "Use" is a generic term with a vague, nonspecific meaning; in
contrast, "leverage" means "to build upon" or "to better apply our strength"
(think of using a real lever and you'll get the picture), so Microsoft's
suggestion loses a crucial shade of meaning. In Microsoft's defence, they're
probably talking about documentation, and you're talking about marketing
babble, which has different rules. But I'm still not sure I'd accept
Microsoft's advice in documentation, at least not as an absolute rule.

<<Is it acceptable to substitute "use"/"using" for "leverage"/"leveraging"
in all situations (i.e., situations other than producing software
documentation)? Here is the sentence: In the knowledge era, the XXXX will
achieve market leadership by leveraging collective knowledge to creat

No, it's not acceptable. In this case, I'd agree that "leverage" should be
avoided, but not because it's wrong; rather, it's a cliche that sounds too
much like marketing drivel and thus invokes the reader's BS filter.
Instead, I'd stick with humbler and less cliched English and simply say "by
building on our collective..."

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"A witty statement proves nothing."--Voltaire

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