Big Words Are Wonderful
Thank you, to everyone who read and took time to comment on 9 + 1 Things Every Reader Wants from a Writer. The post and the discussion became much of what I personally think is the appeal and the addiction of blogging — learning by an interactive, rolling dialogue.
One point in particular seemed to get several comments. It was this one.
Set aside your expensive vocabulary. DonÃ¢â¬â¢t use big words, when perfectly good little words communicate easily. I donÃ¢â¬â¢t read with an online dictionary, and I donÃ¢â¬â¢t want to.
It seems folks were worried that I don’t like big words at all. I love them. I like the way they sound and the way that you can find one that will precisely pinpoint the idea that you’re going for. The point up above that I didn’t make clearly — yeah I’m unclear too, go figure — is that I was writing the 9 + 1 post in the voice of average readers, who don’t have time to go looking up words that might get between them and your message.
El Hakeem pointed out that some folks DO like big words and enjoy learning them. Starbucker is one in particular. He reads William Safire for that very reason. They’re right, you know. If your audience shares your love of vocabulary and finds new words delicious, I’d never ask you to take that away from them. I don’t expect that you would, even if I did.
I was talking about folks who use big words to make themselves or their writing sound smarter. Using vocabulary that way isn’t authentic and readers can tell.
Tony Lawrence left a story in a comment this morning that is a perfect example of how a guy can get caught doing just that.
Many years ago I had a partner who sometimes liked to brag about his education. I think he liked it all the more because I am mostly self educated – I dropped out of high school the moment I was legally able.
Anyway, Don (weÃ¢â¬â¢ll call him Don because that was his name) had prepared a new company brochure and was presenting it to me and another partner. As I was reading it, I came across an interesting sentence:
Ã¢â¬ËWe provide simple pneumonic phrases to help you remember the commands.Ã¢â¬â¢
Ã¢â¬ÅDon, what the hell is a Ã¢â¬Ëpneumonic phraseÃ¢â¬â¢, I asked (not all that pleasantly).
Don nearly preened himself. Ã¢â¬ÅWell, if you had the benefit of a college education, youÃ¢â¬â¢d know that a pneumonic is a memory aid.Ã¢â¬Â
I shook my head. Ã¢â¬ÅI am an autodidact, you fatuous ass, but I know how to spell and I know that the word you were thinking of is Ã¢â¬ËmnemonicÃ¢â¬â¢ and that YOUR word is more usually found in conjunction with plaguesÃ¢â¬Â. I wrote Ã¢â¬ËMNEMONICÃ¢â¬â¢ out in large letters as I said that.
Ã¢â¬ËBenefits of a college educationÃ¢â¬â¢ indeed.
Thanks, Tony, for letting me share your anecdote. (That qualifies as a big word.) You did what I couldn’t do and you did it artfully. I probably would have had readers screaming, “Liz, the darn horse is dead.”
By the way, my favorite word is despicable. It sounds like it should have punctuation inside it. What’s yours?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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