Things I Hate, Numbers 12 & 35

The use of "hacking" to mean almost any damned thing the writer wants it to mean.

In the above link, "hacking" apparently means "figuring out." Say what?

"Hacking" originally had two meanings:

1) Coding that was done in a rush, without much planning: "I got the invoice system working, but it was just a hack: I'll have to clean the code up tomorrow."

2) Coding designed to break into someone else's computer system: "I hacked into the FBI's fingerprint database."

The connection between the two meanings was that hacking (2) was often done via hacking (1). And it is interesting to note that usage (1) was largely negative: you might have to employ a "hack" if the client needed to see a result the next day, but it was a stopgap measure, to be replaced by sound coding later.

But the term became trendy, and now "hacking" is used just to make any old thing seem trendy and up-to-date: if someone figures out a better way to bake cookies, that is no longer a cooking tip, but a "kitchen hack." If someone suggests that quitting drinking to excess might be a good idea, that is no longer a piece of moral advice, but a "life hack."

Let me suggest a "writing hack": don't mindlessly employ some term just because its use is trendy, but instead write what you really mean to say!


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