Rumination 70: From an [INSERT HERE] Perspective

A black-and-white sketch of a road stretching into the distance, meeting the horizon

More and more these days, I hear people using a very specific kind of phrase as they begin to offer their own opinion or take on an issue. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it is what I am now dubbing the ‘perspective-driven dependent clause’. The examples below are just some of the vague, perspective-driven dependent clauses that I have heard uttered by real people online and in person.

From a tech perspective…

From a stakeholder perspective…

From a learning perspective…

From a user-experience perspective…

From a global perspective…

From a timing perspective…

What do these actually mean? Of course, I’ve only included a select few in the list; you could replace any of the modifiers before ‘perspective’ with another word to create your own version.

From a linguistic perspective, it is useless to rail against changes in communication. New expressions, definitions, pronunciations and views on correct usage are natural. We would not have different languages and dialects without such constant iteration, creativity and error.

From a critical perspective, however, it becomes frustrating to hear others’ incessant use of the same kind of dependent clause to open sentences, particularly when what is spoken doesn’t really make any sense. It’s simply a fashionable and somewhat professional-sounding way of speaking, so everyone is mindlessly jumping on board. Take the last example above in italics: ’From a timing perspective…’. Can timing even have a perspective? Is timing a sentient being with eyes or its own mental processes and experiences, from which it can offer its own view at all or perceive three-dimensional space as we do? If it isn’t a sentient being, then what makes the perspective of timing so unique as to call it out?

From a research perspective, let’s look at a few alternatives to this kind of opening dependent clause.

With regard to timing…

On the topic of timing…

Speaking of timing…

Considering the importance of timing…

From a retrospective perspective, do you see how easy it was to find other ways to say it? We have not even explored the possibility of using a synonym for ‘timing’!

From a result-oriented perspective, my recommendation is simple: it is fine to use the word ‘perspective’, of course, but try to use it when referring to someone’s actual view on something; otherwise, mix up your use of language to avoid submitting to groupthink. Here’s an even more extreme idea: drop such an opening altogether! Just say what you have to say.

From a social perspective, you may start to make more sense and stand out with your varied vocabulary.