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I'm writing a technical paper and need to say something along these lines:

The technology in this area has come a long way in the past twenty years...

But I think "come a long way" doesn't seem as descriptive, and was hoping there is a better word for it.

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OP should perhaps stick to his original come a long way. All posted answers are metaphoric usages based on "growth/expansion", rather than "advancement". OP's original metaphor more strongly implies that much has been achieved, whereas the "growth" metaphors have more the sense that much effort has been made, which isn't really the same thing. – FumbleFingers Dec 3 '11 at 14:31
"progressed greatly" ? Two words, but -- – ewormuth Jul 29 at 16:48
I agree with FF. Moreover, it is not clear to me that one word is necessarily preferable to a phrase. I was thinking of asking the question: Is there a single English word for mot juste, but I was afraid people would take me seriously. – ab2 Jul 29 at 17:11

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I usually use the word boom.

Boom: to grow, develop, or progress rapidly.

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This is exactly what I need - Applying it to my sentence, which would be the appropriate usage: "This technology has been booming over the past twenty years" or "This technology boomed over the past twenty years"? – nickb Dec 3 '11 at 3:51
@nickb The former sounds better to me. – Terry Li Dec 3 '11 at 4:08

Try skyrocketed if you want one word alone. Or, to convey the same effect, try improved a lot.

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Using improved a lot seems even less imaginative to me than come a long way...but I like skyrocketed in the proper context, it comes with an attached intensity. – Rant Dec 4 '11 at 10:28

I think burgeoned is a reasonable fit.

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Burgeoned might be a highly descriptive word but doesn't seem to improve the message when it comes to technology. burgeon is used more often with something that "blossoms" rather than "improve rapidly". Technology doesn't really "blossom" or "flourish", but it's purely connotative. – Rant Dec 4 '11 at 10:32
@Rant has: "1. to grow or develop quickly; flourish" I still feel it is a reasonable fit, as stated above, though not ideal. Personally I am not fond of "boomed" here either; to my mind it speaks more of size and activity, rather than progress. – Mr.Wizard Dec 4 '11 at 10:35

"Matured" could be another option.

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