Issue has become one of those annoying “soft” words that’s intended to take the sting – and all legitimate meaning – out of a conversation. It sounds mean to say, “we have a problem,” and so instead we say, “we have an issue.” But the word has a meaning already, and by misusing it, you’re neutering your conversations.
Issue is correct when:
- You are discussing something that is released in regular installments, such as an issue of a magazine, an issue of stamps, or the issuance of a coin.
- You are discussing someone’s offspring. His issue certainly are a loud little bunch, aren’t they?
- You are discussing something that is being projected from something else. His words issued forth from his mouth like the gassy diarrhea of a lactic intolerant on whole milk.
- You are discussing a situation where there are two or more clear sides of opinion, neither of which is definitively correct. One political issue that we are constantly revisiting is that of Congressional term limits.
However, it would not be correct to say, “we may have an issue – the car’s tire is flat.” No, that is not an issue, because nobody is going to be able to factually dispute the flatness. What you ahem there is a problem.
Using problem in the right situations is important, because you’re saying, “this is bad, nobody disagrees that it is bad, and it should be fixed, rather than discussed.” The mail server being down is not an “issue,” unless there’s some disagreement on that condition being a Bad Thing. It is a “problem.”
So join me in stopping the insanity. The next time someone at works points out an “issue,” you can correctly remind them that, “no, what you have is a problem.“