As data lovers and evaluators, we know that implicit and explicit biases influence our work. Data is not objective. Data are numbers that represent people. People make the decisions about how that information is collected, who it is collected from, how it is analyzed, and what and how results are shared.

With books like Weapons of Math Destruction and movements like Data for Black Lives’ #NoMoreDataWeapons, we understand the ways in which biases and decisions are codified in our algorithms, software, policing, education, funding, and hiring practices.

I want to talk about another type of violence happening in our data and evaluation work – weaponized, militarized, and violent language. We talk about hitting targets or benchmarks, blowing people away with our presentations, and giving something a shot. We have bullet points in our presentations and bullet charts in our reports.

These phrases have become so common in our vernacular that we might not even recognize them as violent. But they are.

The language we use shapes how we see the world and sends a message about what we value. I don’t want to live in a world that normalizes and excuses violence. Do you?

Below are some common phrases and alternatives that we can use to stop weaponizing our language when talking about data and evaluation:
Violent LanguageAlternative
Bullet pointsKey points, main ideas
Bullet chartOverlapping bar chart
Hit the target/benchmarkMeet or achieve the goal
Hardest hitMost impacted
To be brutally honestTo be honest
Blown awayIn awe, impressed
Straight shooterHonest
Give it a shotTry
Armed with the factsKnowledgeable
Moving targetChanging
Leading the chargeLeading
Rally the troopsEncourage, support, inspire
Had a blastEnjoyed
Knocked it out of the park/killed itDid well
On your radarPaying attention
Silver bulletSolution
Pull the triggerLaunch
I’m shooting forMy goal is
Additional resources:
What violent language have you used in your work and what alternatives could you use instead?

Interested in learning more about inclusive language? Read Part 1 of this post.

    Adopting inclusive and non-violent language handout