Monthly Archives: October 2012

Iterate

sunflowerITERATE: “to perform or utter repeatedly; [no object] make repeated use of a mathematical or computational procedure, applying it each time to the result of the previous application; perform iteration” – New Oxford American Dictionary

Why is reiterate wrong? Because iterate means to “say again,” or more accurately, “say over and over.” So what does reiterate mean? “Say over and over again?” Say, wasn’t that a Bond film?

Okay, that ship sailed and went Titanic a while back. The word today is iterate. Now that reiterate has been unmasked for the fraud it is, pretentious MBAs everywhere are trotting out iterate because it’s, like, new and sounds scientific:

Let’s use the attached Word doc and iterate with this until we get to what we are comfortable with and then we can put into our approved project folder formatting template.

We were thinking it would be good to iterate a bit back and forth before cost proposals so we can ensure alignment on the project goals

Sorry, I had to hit the bathroom. Too many run-ons. Now where were we?

Iterate! So what is this manager trying to say? How does one “iterate” with something? Can you iterate back and forth? No, and let me repeat – no.

Notice I did not write “let me iterate.” Because that, too, is imprecise. Read the definitions again, especially the mathematics one. Iterate does not mean repeat; it means to repeat a process continuously (or for a set number of iterations). The Fibonacci sequence is an iteration.

Iterate certainly doesn’t mean “go [back and forth]” or “mull,” as the email author above seems to think. But he probably thought that since the action needs to be done more than once, it’s an iteration, kind of like lifting weights or eating a dozen Krispy Kremes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just had a sudden urge to iterate on something. I’ll be in the bathroom.

Otto E. Mezzo