English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am writing a goal where I would like to replace the phrase "a general understanding" with something synonymous.

The whole line reads:

Writes clean and concise code that reflects a general understanding of the codebase and its external modules.

Alternative that I don't like:

Writes clean and concise code that reflects efforts to understand the codebase and its external modules.

I am looking for a similar phrase which uses an alternative to "understanding" with a positive adjective describing it.

share|improve this question
Welcome to English Language & Usage. This is out of scope (writing advice) per the FAQ. You are welcome to edit the question, to reframe it so that it is not a writing advice request. Also please add the results of research you undertook before asking here. Thanks. – MετάEd Mar 1 '13 at 5:54
@MετάEd There was an earlier Q on phrase-requests similarly objected to. Phrase-requests cannot be off-topic per se. – Kris Mar 1 '13 at 8:58
I realise this might be part of a list or some other non-prose structure, but "Writes" is missing a subject. Putting it in the imperative, "Write", would sound better. – deadly Mar 1 '13 at 11:36
@deadly, thank you for the tip; slang and misuse have muddied my English usage. – Gaʀʀʏ Mar 1 '13 at 14:09
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You can use the phrase superficial understanding, or simply, general insight into a particular subject.

share|improve this answer
Given the usually negative connotation with superficial -- see 2.c, I don't think that would bode well with my supervisor. I do like using the term insight. – Gaʀʀʏ Feb 28 '13 at 17:17
@le_garry Then I think general insight should be a better choice. – nyan nyan nyan Feb 28 '13 at 17:18
Thank you. Final: Writes clean and concise code that displays a growing insight of the codebase and its external modules. – Gaʀʀʏ Feb 28 '13 at 17:21
@le_garry That sounds pretty positive. Great choice of the adjective growing. However, I suggest the preposition into to be used after insight. – nyan nyan nyan Feb 28 '13 at 17:28
That sounds even better. Thanks! – Gaʀʀʏ Feb 28 '13 at 17:33

You don't really have to qualify understanding as "general". If you wrote

Writes clean and concise code that reflects an understanding of the codebase and its external modules.

then this would have the exact meaning you want.

e: Please remember that if you think this answer is wrong, you should consider leaving a comment explaining why. :)

share|improve this answer
While I could use an understanding, I would like to describe it somehow in a positive light. – Gaʀʀʏ Feb 28 '13 at 17:33
What about an understanding is not positive? – Peter Shor Feb 28 '13 at 17:43
The 30%-ness of it. I think OP wants it both ways. How about 'a working understanding'. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 28 '13 at 17:49
"Clean and concise" are virtues for both human and computer languages. I think ornamenting "understanding" works against both. I'd even argue with the implication that clean and concise necessarily reflects understanding. Why connect them? This seems stronger to me: "I write clean and concise code. I understand the codebase and external modules." – PapaCharlie9 Feb 28 '13 at 23:14

Perhaps a little informal but gist could work:

Writes clean and concise code that reflects the gist of the codebase and its external modules.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.