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What Do You Mean by “Metrics”?

Joy wrote to complain and ask for clarification on the correct use of the word metrics in business communication:

"A word that is not one of my favorites is metrics used to describe financial performance. Example: Our metrics don’t look very good right now."

Joy cited some of the dictionary definitions of metric: (1). A standard of measurement. (2.) A geometric function that describes the distances between pairs of points in a space. (3) Meter (in reference to the metric system).

She wrote, "Today metrics is slung about in business jargon. . . . Is it a word that has transitioned with a new, nebulous meaning?"

Metrics is a word I never use. When I mean "measurement," I write measurement. When I hear my clients using metrics, I believe they mean "measurements."

Do you use the word metrics? If you do, please comment on how you use it and share an example. Do you mean "measurements," or does metrics have another meaning for you?

Thanks from Joy and me!

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

7 comments on “What Do You Mean by “Metrics”?”

  • Metrics is a word used that means exactly measurements. In every company, they measure productivity, success, growth, etc by different numbers, so the broad term for those unique numbers has become metrics. We use it everyday in our morning meetings.

  • Metrics can only mean one thing, that being “measurements,” ; to that I must add.. any way that fits your destination. Success or failure is determined on where you started and where the final point may be. Depends on what outcome you desire.

  • What a silly bunch of crap. Just say “measurements” or “numbers.” It’s a perfectly good word that has been rendered insipid by the business world. Another term I hear bandied about frequently of late is “reach out,” a term that would be used by a mental health outreach group. Why not just say “ask for assistance” or “dump on”?

  • Hi, Carol. I find that I don’t learn much when I call other people’s choices a “silly bunch of crap.” In my experience, that kind of language usually shuts down other people’s interest in exchanging information.

    Best wishes,


  • Carol, here’s some other silly crap that I can’t stand in business jargon: “from a ____ standpoint”, “grow my business”, and anything with “sourcing” in the phrase.

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