Don’t Try To Dazzle Them With Multisyllabic Vocabulary

If reading is a choreyour readers will give up

If reading is a chore
your readers will give up

Always think twice when you use big words. They are exhausting. You won’t impress anybody. Contrary to what you may have learned in public school composition class, it is not good writing.

It doesn’t matter if you know what the word means, and it doesn’t matter if your audience might. I’m serious. Unless you are an academic egghead (and that term is not used in a derogatory sense), using words in a technical journal, those high-priced words have no useful function. They are clutter. Use the simplest words you can. Make things easier to read. It will be more interesting.

New writers are confused on this point. Even more confused than they are with active vs. passive ‘Show, don’t tell’. (That is another post and I will get to it soon.)

If I, as an editor, get bogged down and bleary-eyed reading word-heavy descriptions just think how your readers will feel. Your book, assuming it ever gets published let alone purchased, may end up being the cure for someone’s insomnia. That is not the kind of review you want to see on Amazon. I won’t spend the countless hours necessary to clean the writing up, and you should be grateful for that. I charge by the hour. Do your own slash and burn.

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5 thoughts on “Don’t Try To Dazzle Them With Multisyllabic Vocabulary

  1. Pingback: Don’t Try To Dazzle Them With Multisyllabic Vocabulary « Yvonne Hertzberger

  2. Winston Churchill couldn’t have said it better. In fact he did say all that in his little book issued to all young officers, “The Manual of Service Writing” I think that was the origin of his famous criticism, “This is the sort of nonsense, up with which I will not put!” 007

  3. The important thing is to keep in mind one’s audience and one’s purpose for writing. I shy away from making generalizations such as this. Both multisyllabic and monosyllabic words have their use and place. I find short, choppy writing just as exhausting, (and irritating) if I’m aiming to read for leisure and pleasure. I believe in succinctness as well, and always consider (before any judgment) Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism: (excerpt)
    “In ev’ry Work regard the Writer’s End,
    Since none can compass more than they Intend;
    And if the Means be just, the Conduct true,
    Applause, in spite of trivial Faults, is due.”

    • That is a valid observation.

      We are not considering exquisite literature here, though. We are discussing the overly flowery prose of novice would-be best selling authors. They are usually young, though not always, and they have fallen victim to the delusion that great writing consists of strings of adjectives.

      The attention span of most readers today has been influenced by three camera sitcoms, where the angle changes every three to five seconds. Action flicks play into it, too. Considering the audience is vital, I don’t dispute that. If you want to sell books, you have to write for largest group of readers. You may get critical acclaim for writing an epic in the style of past masters but you won’t be able to give up your day job.

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