Using the Right Words

Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—‘tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” (From a letter to George Bainton, October 15, 1888) I believe Twain is suggesting that using words improperly may send the reader and the writer, or the speaker and the listener, in totally different directions. On the other hand, using words correctly by both parties sets us on the path toward communicating effectively. How many of us have carried out a lengthy conversation before realizing we were using the same words, but had different meanings for them?

Over the past decade, in the area of test security, many new words have been introduced and we struggle to define and use them consistently. I’m thinking of words like threat, breach, authentication, deterrence and risk, plus many others. How we perform our daily efforts to improve the security of tests depends very much on how well we understand and use these terms.

You can access a paper I recently wrote titled, The Language of Security and Test Security. It introduces no new words, but presents and defines (and provides examples for) the words of security commonly used in other fields where security is important. These fields include transportation, banking, law enforcement, information systems, and others. We have been using these same words in the area of test security as well, but perhaps not as consistently as we should. The paper is intended to help us communicate more clearly with each other on test security topics.



David Foster

President and CEO, Caveon Test Security

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