Actionable waffle

One of the funnier malapropisms that have recently emerged from Microsoft’s Marketing arm is the word ‘Actionable‘ . You can see how it happened. They wanted a word that sounded vaguely a ‘good thing’ without being too precise. We all like things we can act on don’t we. ‘Actionable’ sounds good eh?

‘… to provide IT managers with an actionable set of prescriptive guidelines for improving operations…’


‘… Deliver Actionable Insight Throughout Your Organization with Data Mining…’


‘… Actionable audience intelligence and effective targeting technologies are essential for marketers.’


‘… delivered real-time actionable information needed to help grow a business through search engine…’


 ‘…It offers easy inventory, powerful assessment and actionable recommendations for Windows Server 2008, …’


Oops.  Typically of the purveyors of word salad, they didn’t check their dictionaries first. In this case they got it comically wrong.

Actionable has a definite and precise meaning in both American English and in Queens English that is well known in the Legal Profession.  If you say, or do, something Actionable, it means you could be sued for it.  To quote from Webster, ‘furnishing grounds for a lawsuit’. talks of Actionable  meaning  ‘affording grounds for legal action’, giving the example  “slander is an actionable offense”, and gives the synonym ‘unjust – violating principles of justice’. The Oxford English Dictionary yields only one meaning: ‘Subject or liable to an action at law. Of such a character that an action on account of it will lie’, and gives examples going back to the seventeenth century. To be fair, recent Websters have listed an ancillary meaning of ‘capable of being acted upon or readily used’, but it may just be a response to a frequently used malapropism. No, if you key the word ‘actionable‘ into the Wikipedia,  you are straight into  the realms of Litigation.

So sit back and read the marketing blurb with a lighter heart and a new cheerfulness. They are, unintentionally, telling you that the stuff they’re trying to sell you will get you sued!