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In more and more podcasts and presentations I hear sentences such as this one:

That is our strategy going forward.

What meaning does going forward add to the sentence? That is, how is it different than saying:

That is our strategy.

(I listened to two software podcasts recently: in the first going forward was used once, and in the second it was used twice and moving forward once. I have to say it connotes a slight sense of we have a team working hard on this, lots of motion, lots of action, but it could have been dropped in all four cases and no meaning would have been lost. In any case, people currently really love to use it!)

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There is an Irish poet who wrote a very funny satirical piece on the phrase "going forward". Pity I can't remember his name, because it is well worth reading. –  Vincent McNabb Aug 15 '10 at 10:19
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Urgh! I hate that phrase. Just as much as I hate hearing these politicians say " We will make sure that...", "we will ensure that..". –  systemovich Nov 23 '10 at 8:43
    
I hate it too. It was continuously used by politicians on the BBC Today programme for a while. I thought aliens had come down, snatched their bodies and turned them into robots. –  JWEnglish Jan 26 '12 at 7:08
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6 Answers 6

up vote 11 down vote accepted

"Going forward" is almost a completely useless phrase. If one says "[x] going forward", they mean "[x] into the future", but it is very redundant, as one could just as easily say "[x]". It seems that many business people want to sound as fancy as possible, so they use as many fancy words as possible to get the same point across. This leads to entire dialogues of contentless speech, filled with words devoid of meaning.

A BBC article puts it much more poetically than me:

When someone says 'going forward' it assaults the ears just as, when a colleague starts slurping French onion soup at a neighbouring desk, it assaults the nose.

I think it is a phrase that one should avoid as much as possible, as in the relatively short time it has been in use, it has been abused, hung out to dry, and abused again.

As ianjs has said, it is quite redundant. Redundancy isn't a bad thing in itself, as it can help to reinforce points. But "going forward" is so cliché that its effect is lost.

The term can be useful in certain situations, such as "I will be polite to you, going forward", but it sounds too much like the overused term, that it sounds nicer to say "From now on, I will be polite to you", or "I am going to start being polite to you."

"Going forward" just grates against my ears, and despite it being perfectly relevant in the above example, I would avoid using the term altogether. This is obviously a matter of opinion, but, because of the way the phrase has been used recently, it would be better to use a bit of imagination, and use different wording.

ps This answer has had 4 up-votes and 3 down-votes, which means it is a very contentious issue. Take this answer with a grain of salt, and remember that English usage is subjective. This probably means that "going forward" annoys 4/7 people who voted on this post, and that 3/7 voters like the term.

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+1 I love this answer. It puts into words the feeling I have had the past 20 times I've heard "going forward". –  Edward Tanguay Aug 15 '10 at 11:13
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It is not always redudant. In many cases, the phrase will add meaning to the sentence. See an example in my answer. –  b.roth Aug 15 '10 at 11:30
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I love how you expressed the same thing three times in three paragraphs. However, no matter how grating it sounds, it is not entirely useless. When used in conjunction with a change in plans, "going forward" more clearly emphasizes that the strategy or plan or action has changed. It's a time based phrase... and despite being overused, is not completely redundant if it adds something to the phrase. –  Armstrongest Aug 16 '10 at 2:17
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@atomiton, I believe the 3x is a case of "Redundancy isn't a bad thing in itself, as it can help to reinforce points.". But when one has said "Going forward" after explaining what they are going to do going forward, it is pointless redundancy. But being redundant with cliché is a very annoying thing: the effect is lost. I have also edited my answer to say the phrase is not always redundant. But it is true, that most of the time when it is used, it is indeed redundant. –  Vincent McNabb Aug 16 '10 at 4:39
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I understand the term to mean henceforth, with the implication that the strategy will be different and possibly improved.

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Right, it doesn't seem to only mean "in the future" but as you say, implies "going on now and continuing on into the future". –  Edward Tanguay Aug 18 '10 at 7:02
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The difference is one of time. Your second example: This is our strategy implies the strategy is unchanged. It was, is, and will be our strategy. On the other hand, when one says: This is our strategy going forward. they are implying a change in strategy. They are essentially talking about future time using the present tense.

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+1 That's how I would interpret the phrase as well. You could equally say something like "This is our strategy from now on", which again indicates that the strategy in question is different to the previous one but is the one to always be used in the future. –  Mark Embling Aug 15 '10 at 15:32
    
+1 "Going forward, BP will drill relief wells before extracting oil". "Going forward" in this case emphasizes that there it was something that they didn't do before and that there is a positive change of action. One could also use, "from now on" but that doesn't intimate that there the way things were before wrong. –  Armstrongest Aug 16 '10 at 2:25
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In your example "That is our strategy going forward", by "going forward" I understand that the strategy used to be a different one in the past.

Here is another context where the phrase is not useless nor redundant:

You left your bike outside, you didn't lock it and somebody stole it. You could then say:

Going forward I will always lock my bike or bring it in with me.

"Going forward" here means that you will be doing something in a different way than you used to do in the past.

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"I will start locking my bike.", "From now on I will lock my bike." –  Dennis Williamson Aug 15 '10 at 23:01
    
@Dennis. Yep. That's Another way to say it. "From now on" has the same meaning but a slightly difference nuance. –  Armstrongest Aug 16 '10 at 2:26
    
@atomiton: Could you explain the difference in nuance? I always thought both meant a change in behavior from the past. "Going forward" is something that is more common in Business English and it is more formal than "From now on". Am I right? –  Manjima Aug 19 '10 at 15:26
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"going forward" is more pretentious, and "poncy". It is used solely to make the user appear more important or sophisticated than they otherwise would in keeping their language simple and easily understood. –  gbjbaanb Nov 23 '10 at 21:50
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Seems redundant to me, given that the only direction a strategy would be going is forward.

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But it is possible to have changed your strategy. If you add a time word to "This is our strategy" it adds information, that is, that the strategy is "this" for the stated time period. "Going forward, this is our strategy" implies that the strategy might have been different in the past. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 16 '10 at 12:55
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It would depend on the context, but basically I can't see much difference, although going forward doesn't mean there has to be a strategy guiding the action!

However...

You could argue that adding "going forward" suggests that the strategy is not fixed and is able to change according to future events.

Another possibility, given that this phrase is spoken more often than written, (and depending on the intonation and context) could be an attempt to say, "that is our strategy - to go forward."

Just my thoughts early on Sunday morning.

Olaf

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protected by RegDwigнt Dec 3 '11 at 20:16

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