The first step to recovery begins with admitting you have a problem. I can’t remember the first time I used the word “driven” as a hyphenated suffix. It began with good intentions. As a freelance reporter and marketing communications writer, I wanted to tell a good story. That was then, and this is now. So not long ago, I took a deep breath and entered “drive” and “-driven” into the search bar of my PC. I won’t reveal the final number, but let’s just say it’s prompted me to take action. This post is only the beginning.
Let’s start with a few facts. Driven is an adjective, the past participle of drive. Dictionary sources offer this definition:
- Having a compulsive or urgent quality
- Propelled or motivated by something (used in combination <results-driven>)
According to Merriam-Webster, driven was first used in 1925, possibly linked to the widespread adoption of cars (my guess). The motivational definition sent me to Wikipedia where drive is connected to desire. Here I learned that philosophers like Hobbes believe human desire is the fundamental motivation for all human action.
It’s no wonder driven has become shorthand for all manner of so-called communication, business or otherwise. Recently I did a quick online search to see just how far this has gone. Millions of hits prove the situation is dire. Forget data-driven decisions and rage-driven mobs. It’s much worse than that. Restaurants serve ingredient-driven dishes. Ted talks push child-driven education. Romney-driven attention reared its head at the 2012 Summer Olympics. We have drought-driven farmers, fear-driven financiers, patient-driven clinical research, and celebrity-driven everything. If you’re interested a building a new [blank]–driven life, your choices are endless: you can be driven by Crossfit, Disney, food, or an obsession with comic books.
The trouble with all this shorthand is just that. Minus the full context we miss the nuances. Our business and personal lives are so richly textured that they defy interpretation by ‘drive speak.’ This is not about the internet, either. If anything, the online world demands more clarity, not less, as we race to meaningfully connect with as many people as we can.
So the next time you write an email, slide deck, white paper or blog, and the d, r, i, v, e, n keys on your keyboard beckon—resist the urge. Think about what you’re really trying to say. Type that instead. Every one of us who creates content has an obligation to communicate better. Let’s eradicate business jargon like driven, and replace it with words that say exactly what we mean. Please join me. We can do this, one writer at a time. You have nothing to lose but your obfuscation.