It turns out that a significant part of our work as developers is to write stuff down. Or to say it more eloquently, to outline, recount and illustrate our deliberations in writing. Given that English is not my first language I might be forgiven for lacking in expressive prowess, but everybody is sometimes just tired, annoyed or drained. Sometimes our literary capacities are narrowed down to only simple words, like “bad”, “good”, “ugly”.

In those moments I turn to Thesaurus’s life saving (read: face-saving) online synonyms’ dictionary.

Synonyms' dictionary

Let’s look at some examples.

Example 1: “This approach is stupid”

Obviously, saying stupid will make sure that this approach is going to end up in production. By publicly calling something “stupid”, we have challenged the author to prove the worth of her life. We have called the author stupid and incompetent and in all ways unworthy of her position. Saying stupid is not going to make us gain any allies and will very firmly shut the door for any kind of compromise. From here on, the only thing that will be discussed is whether we are a complete or just an occasional douche.

To avert this calamity, let’s see, what else we can say. We need to find something, that makes us look more mature, but has a similar poignancy.

There is a whole list of possible alternatives: foolish, futile, ill-advised, shortsighted, rash, …

Synonyms of stupid

We can look deeper, at 2nd level synonyms (=synonyms of the synonyms of stupid) and extend the list with: daring, imprudent, wild, brash, unwise, incautious, …

But let’s say that we will go with: “This approach is short-sighted.” Isn’t this more shrewd? :wink:

Example 2: “We should be more careful”

There is nothing particularly wrong with this sentence per se. But we might have used up our monthly quota of “careful” already, we might be afraid of the appearance we are presenting, we don’t want to be the old guy, who is always careful and never leaves the house. Undoubtedly I am exaggerating a lot, but let’s still take a look at alternatives to careful.

There is an assemblage of delightful words to choose from:

Synonyms of careful

For instance: “We should be more vigilant (when assessing third-party libraries)”. Doesn’t this sound as if we know what we are talking about?

Example 3: I don’t like this

This one is a bit tricky. We can turn like into all sorts of things: approve, admire, cherish, fancy, appreciate, applaud, regard, treasure, … . But one way or the other we will have to give some explanation as to Why? Why do we not like this?.

Here is my attempt to improve the style of this sentence without expanding it too much: “I regard this thing as rash and short-sighted”.


This article is half joke half truthful advice. Everything that is on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt :wink:.

However, communication is difficult, particularly written communication, since we have been programmed over the millennia to get 75% of our information from non-verbal cues.

When writing something down, there is the problem of the author not having succeeded in expressing what she wanted to, the problem of us not having all the context, the problem of us not having succeeded in expressing what we wanted to and the problem of this sentence being written down forever and ever and ever and … (When are any comments, any emails ever deleted?). It is simply prudent to bit a bit more meticulous when creating your legacy.

Writings last