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When describing my product (actually a computer system) in a presentation, what way is best (most understandable or natural) for writing the heading of the introductory slide, where “XYZ” stands for the name of my product? I've looked at:

• XYZ – What is that?
• XYZ – What is it?

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closed as general reference by tchrist, MετάEd, FumbleFingers, kiamlaluno, Daniel Sep 26 '12 at 18:24

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This question can be improved by reading the faq and How To Ask sections of our documentation. – MετάEd Sep 14 '12 at 12:11
"What is it" is better. "What is that" would make people look around and wonder "what is what?" – Alex Sep 14 '12 at 12:13
or just "What is XX?" – StoneyB Sep 14 '12 at 12:56
ΜετάEd: I did, so please proove me what is wrong or edit. – alekwisnia Sep 14 '12 at 13:29
Actually they say "what the hell", and it's usually when they are unpleasantly surprised by something, or are unhappy about how hard it is to figure something out. – Hellion Sep 14 '12 at 16:33
up vote 3 down vote accepted

As others have said, Number 2, "What is it?", is preferable. As you have just given its name, "it" logically refers back to the thing you named. We usually say "What is that?" when referring to something that we are pointing at, rather than something we have just identified.

You could also simply say "What is Webbum Globbler?", but I'm assuming you like the "X - what is ..." form.

Numbers 3 and 4 would be considered at least mildly offensive to many people. Use of profanities should generally be avoided in a business presentation. In my humble opinion, people today are much too free with profanities. I read something by a film critic recently where he asked, "When was the last time you heard someone say, That could have been a good movie, but they just didn't use the F-word enough?" The point being that plenty of people would say the reverse, that an otherwise good movie was made offensive or at least distasteful by too much profanity, but few would complain that there was not enough. People sometimes use profanity for shock value, to get attention, but when everybody does it all the time, the effectiveness of the technique is worn out.

In any case, number 3 is grammatically incorrect. We do not say "what to hell" but "what the hell". Maybe that was just a typo.

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Sorry, numbers 3 and 4 were added by someone who edited my question, I didn't mean to use them in presentation. Thank you for your answer, it satisfies me. – alekwisnia Sep 15 '12 at 21:00
What a strange edit for someone to make. Whatever. – Jay Sep 17 '12 at 13:50

In Indonesian there are the terms:

  • di sini — meaning "here", suggesting the object your are referring to is closer and visible.
  • di sana — meaning "there", suggesting the object you are referring is further away and possibly not visible.

In a similar way:

  • "What is it?" — could be used for things that are more recognisable, familiar, and closer.
  • "What is that?" — could be used for things that are more unrecognisable, unfamiliar and further away.

If your product's name was actually webbum glombler, it would be okay to say "What is that?" as it is a slightly unusual name.

The tone of this though:

Webbum glombler — what is that?

would be as if you were acknowledging that your audience will be thinking "What is that?!" in a slightly perplexed way and so it would not be your voice that you are writing down but theirs. It would also carry with it some informality and almost a sense of humour.

If you wanted it to be more serious and business like, you would say something like "webbum glomber — system overview" or something like that.

You could use "Webbum glombler — what is it?" as well, but it wouldn't have the same tone as "What is that?". It would, again, be using the audience's "voice" but in a more serious tone.

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