Light on

To be “light on” something means to offer very little of it.

Today's story: Spotify playlists
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Light on

Today’s expression is to be “light on” something. There are a couple of ways to use this expression, so as usual, we’re going to stick to just one way. Earlier in today’s lesson, I said that Spotify published some advice for musicians trying to get onto editorial playlists. But they were light on details. That means they did not publish a lot of details. So, to be light on something means to offer very little of it.

The context is often about the depth or the completeness with which you do something. Spotify published some general guidelines on how to submit a song for consideration by its playlist editors. They created these guidelines and published them. But they didn’t offer a lot of details. They didn’t tell you exactly the kind of songs they choose or how they evaluate new submissions. They were light on details. They didn’t offer very many details.

That makes sense, right? It’s probably not a formula. There’s a lot of judgment involved. And even if they did have a lot of specific criteria, they won’t disclose the criteria. If they did, then people would just try to manipulate the system.

At the same time, though, Spotify wanted to be fair to its community and say something. So they published their article, but they were light on details.

This is a very typical way of using “light on.” You can say someone or something is light on specifics, light on details, light on analysis, light on facts. I would stick to these, so let me give you some examples.

Late last year, I was looking for a new firm to help me with my website. I got a number of different proposals from small, medium, and even large companies. Some proposals were light on details. They just wanted me to trust that they’d do a good job. If you’ve been listening to Plain English for a while, you can probably guess that this approach didn’t work for me. I didn’t want a proposal that was light on details. I’m a bit of a control freak! I wanted to know the exact approach the company planned to take.

I recently searched Google for the best coffee shops in Chicago. I wanted to try something new. The rideshare company Lyft published a list of the most-visited coffee shops in Chicago. And I thought that’s a great idea! They take people from place to place, so they probably know where people are going most frequently.

But the article was light on details. All it gave was a list of ten coffee shops with no context. They didn’t say why one was good, whether recently opened or been popular for a long time. And the article didn’t have any words written by a human; it was just a directory of ten coffee shops, with zero context provided. So that article was light on details.

On a lot of web pages these days, there are sponsored links with sensational headlines. These articles are light on facts. Here are a few headlines that are light on facts: “Casinos don’t want you to do this, but they can’t stop you.” This is light on facts. They want you to click on the link and discover, supposedly, the secret to cheating a casino. News flash: there is no secret. Pages like that are light on facts. There might be a small fact in there, but the rest is fluff and sensationalism.

Here’s another one that’s light on facts: “Amazing car hacks everyone needs to start doing now.” This, also, was light on facts. This one says you should put a plastic bag around your side mirrors, but it didn’t really say why.

Celebrity news, again, is often light on facts. Lots of fluff, lots of photos, lots of clickbait, lots of speculation, not a lot of real information. You could say that most celebrity news is light on facts, light on details, light on information.

Here’s one last example, “light on analysis.” I was researching this lesson and found an article that included the statistic about the number of songs uploaded to Spotify every day. And I thought, this is great, it’s a long article, maybe 1,000 words, I’m going to learn a lot. No. All the article did was repeat that fact over and over, just in a different way. They said 60,000 songs a day is almost 2 million songs a month. Then they took another whole paragraph and said it was 22 million songs a year.

Then I started to get frustrated as they then estimated how many minutes it was in total. But there was no analysis. There was no additional, meaningful information or thinking. They just tried to get a long article out of repeating the same fact over and over. That article was light on analysis. It just re-stated the same thing without providing the kind of insight that I was hoping to get.

Quote of the Week

Today’s quote of the week is from the musician Bruno Mars. He started as a writer for other pop stars and then began his own musical career. He said, “You can’t knock on opportunity’s door and not be ready.”

All the aspiring musicians trying to get on Spotify playlists are knocking on opportunity’s door. They’re trying to land that big chance to get noticed. So they have to be ready for their big moment, just in case it comes, according to Bruno Mars. Once again, he said, ” You can’t knock on opportunity’s door and not be ready.”

See you next time!

And that’s all for today, Monday, September 6, 2021. Happy Labor Day, by the way, to those of you in the U.S. and Canada. We have our last of the three summer holidays today as we say goodbye to unofficial summer.

When fall comes, vacation time ends, and we start looking forward to what we want to accomplish before the end of the year. If improving your English is on your list, then I’d invite you to come join us at Plain English Plus+ . That’s our membership program that will help you build the skills you need to speak English with confidence. There’s too much to explain here, but if you visit PlainEnglish.com/Plus, you’ll see all the details.

Saturday is September 11, 2021, the twentieth anniversary of the date now known as “9/11.” Thursday’s lesson is going to be a little bit different. I’m just going to walk you through the timeline, minute by minute, of what happened on that day and how it seemed on television, where so many of us, myself included, experienced the day. So that’s coming up on Thursday’s lesson. See you then.

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Story: Spotify playlists