Close up of a dictionary definition of the phrase "in other words"

Is your sentence too jargon-heavy and difficult to understand? Someone might tell you to try putting it “IOW.” Here’s what this acronym means how to use it to simplify your language.

In Other Words

IOW is the shortened version of “in other words.” In literal terms, it means to express something differently. An example of this would be, “My serotonin levels have risen significantly. IOW, I’m pleased about this.”

IOW is commonly used to you paraphrase something in more straightforward terms to make sure everyone understands it. For example, if you’re a computer technician explaining a damaged PC to someone, you might say, “Your computer’s boot drive failed, and all your files were corrupted. IOW, it’s completely broken.”

IOC can also be used when you’re trying to express a thought in a different way that might provide a different perspective. For example, you might say, “I think rental prices are pretty cheap right now. IOW, we should hold off on buying a house.” In this particular sentence, IOW was used to introduce the conclusion and to reframe that information differently.

You can use the acronym in both the uppercase IOW and lowercase iow. People rarely speak it out loud. Instead, they say the entire phrase “in other words” when introducing their rephrased statements.

The History of IOW

The phrase “in other words” has been used for a very long time in both literary works and speech. One of the most popular musical standards of all time, “Fly Me to the Moon,” uses “in other words” many times in its lyrics.


Its initialism version has been around since at least 2004, which is when its first entry on Urban Dictionary was created. However, it’s likely that it was around earlier than that. Many shortened internet slang terms were invented by chatroom and message board users in the 1990s to make communication faster.

IOW gained broader use in the 2010s, mainly because of the founding of online spaces for discussion on various topics, like Reddit. In these communities, explaining topics that are unfamiliar to beginners is fairly common. IOW is a helpful tool to introduce complex processes to newbies without necessarily alienating the expert users, as you’d still retain the more complicated explanation.

Making Things Simpler

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What types of content do people normally try to simplify? One common situation is when you’re a subject matter expert on something, but you need to explain it to a broad audience. This is common in the tech space. For many, talk about processing power and computing units can get way too complicated—so a website that explains tech concepts to everyone is putting this tech jargon “IOW.”

Another is when you’re trying to make an argument or providing your perspective. “IOW” becomes synonymous with “in conclusion.” Because you’ve brought up many points and pieces of evidence, you want to end with a simple, straightforward explanation of your argument. Having an IOW moment can everything you just said even more powerful.

Lastly, IOW is useful when you’re trying to simplify a vague thought you just shared. If you find yourself rambling and the things you’re saying don’t seem to make sense, you can use IOW to clarify your thoughts.

How to Use IOW

To use IOW, substitute the acronym when you’d otherwise say “in other words.” Use it when you’re attempting to simplify an overly complicated piece of information so you can share it with others. You can also use it to punctuate a point that you’re making or providing another perspective on a situation.


Here are a few ways you can use IOW in your posts and messages:

  • “I purchased pre-packaged dihydrogen monoxide. IOW, I bought some bottled water.”
  • “There was no concrete evidence that proved she did it. IOW, I think she’s innocent.”
  • “There are no words to describe how disappointed in your actions I am. IOW, I’m mad at you.”

Do you want to explore more common internet slang words? Check out our pieces on TMI, DW, and GTG.

RELATED: What Does "DW" Mean, and How Do You Use It?

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Vann Vicente has been a technology writer for four years, with a focus on explainers geared towards average consumers. He also works as a digital marketer for a regional e-commerce website. He's invested in internet culture, social media, and how people interact with the web.
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