I Have a Premise That Few Know When to Use the Word Premises

In a previous job, I led AT&T Business Services Customer Demonstration Program and had the pleasure of showcasing all of AT&T’s business products to CxO’s at some of the world’s largest companies.

During one of my presentations I was explaining the benefits of a network-based approach to remote access vs. a premise-based approach. That is when it happened!  The customer asked me, “Don’t you mean premises?” I forgot the rule about the customer always being right and said “No, I mean premise.” He was not happy and further explained that a premise is a basis of an argument and that equipment is kept on premises. Following the demo I looked it up and he was right!!! OMG, how many times did I make this mistake and why didn’t anyone tell me before?

Now I can’t help but notice when premises is used correctly or incorrectly. I noticed my local diner got it right when they hung a sign that read “Baking done on premises.” Yet the cloud industry can’t seem to make up their mind.

I went to CloudExpo in June and noticed that some presenters used premise and others used premises. Unfortunately, the majority of the time premise was used and no one was making an argument. One presenter had premises on their slides but said premise when they spoke. Last year during Oracle Openworld I observed similar errors. During a recent trip through Pennsylvania I passed a store with a sign that read “Premise Maid Chocolate.” There are two mistakes on this one but let’s stay focused on the first. Clearly, this problem is not limited to the cloud industry.

The one thing that has me the most troubled is that this error is starting to show up on websites and marketing collateral. You see, in the past mistakes like this would never get through the editing process.

There is so much momentum behind the use of premise that I don’t think it will ever change. At least that is my premise. I sometimes wonder if an additional definition should be added to premise in the dictionary that includes the definition of premises. One thing I know for sure, until it is changed in the dictionary; I will use premises and avoid future embarrassment.

What do you think? Have you run into similar misuse of words commonly used in technology? Share your ideas in our comments and see what others are experiencing in their work.
Don Parente Technology Strategy and Chief Architect Director AT&T About Don