May 16, 2017 – Fellow writers, don’t use big words! As a man of the world, I have worn many hats over the years. I have been a political pundit, fisherman, tourist guide, financial advisor, poet and an occasional writer. But today for writing this article I am wearing my reader’s hat.
I hate it when writers use big words. If you are what you eat, I must be plain vanilla. And if you are what you read, I must be nursery rhymes. For me, the simpler the better. I do not like beating my brains out trying to find out what the writer means. Every human being has an inborn desire to be heard through what they say and write. Letting others know what’s on our mind is a basic human desire and it is a wonderful feeling when we are understood. So what is the point of writing something that only you can understand?
“Missiles of ligneous or oterous consistency have the potential of fracturing my osceous structure, but appellations will eternally remain innocuous. “
What?! It sounds good, but what the heck does it mean? Who is the author trying to impress? A reader is like a woman ready to be pursued, wined and dined. I would like to be seduced by a writer through the use of seductive words and phrases in a language I can understand not in some foreign language.
“Judgment of any system, or a priori relationship or phenomenon exists in an irrational, or metaphysical, or at least epistemological contradiction to an abstract empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.”
The words of the above quotation are English but they might as well be Greek. I have no idea what the sentence means. Colleagues, write in such a way as if you are painting a clear and simple picture. Do not create an abstract painting. Write simply, clearly and concisely so that your writings are not open for interpretation. Write in grade level 10 or lower if you can. The lower the level, the better writer you are. The Wall Street Journal is written in Grade 12 level while the New York Times in Grade 10 and the New York Daily News in Grade 8. Do not include words that are superfluous and unnecessary or you might just fog up what you are trying to say. In fact there is a term called “Fog Index” which includes a formula to measure readability and comprehension of a certain text and to determine what formal education is needed to understand such text.
“From a negative light, “Politics” has the horrifying stigma associated with the vile and stealthy manipulation of others for the benefit of a selfish gain masked in fake promises.
It is because of nescience, the lack of knowledge, or the perversion thereof that we position “politics” in the realm of the taboo and elevates “values” into the pedestal of sanctity. And will values be that asymptotic horizon that lies beyond the grasp of the average?”
I am sure the author of the above group of sentences has something worthy to say. But his message is lost in the fog, and at least for me I got a headache just reading the text. To try to interpret the passages might give me agita so I gave up. The writer no doubt is well educated and I am sure he knows what he means. But he fails to realize that readers who did not attain the same level of education he did will need a dictionary to get through the agonizing process of reading his work to the end. Perhaps the writer wants to elevate the reader’s comprehension to his level and help his readers build a better vocabulary, but a column in a magazine is not the proper forum to do it. Reading a piece should be an informative and entertaining experience and should not be as if the reader is going through a creative writing exam. There are professor-type writers who are sincere in their desire to impart their knowledge. But there are also vanity writers, charlatans and timewasters who think big words will help boost their reputation as a writer to the detriment of comprehension. Hey, I can do that too. I can write “a farrago of footlers” instead of “a bunch of lazy people”. But why? My job as a writer is to keep my reader interested and engaged. If I cannot do that I do not deserve to write.
So my message to the writer who uses big words, and with all due respect: It is not too late to change but you’re not getting any younger. And my advice to you, again with all due respect, in the eloquent words of an anonymous college professor is:
“In promulgating your esoteric cogitations, or articulating your superficial sentimentalities and amicable, philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your oral and written communications possess a clarified conciseness, a compact comprehensibleness, coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement and asinine affectations. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility and veracious vivacity, without rodomontade or thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous prolixity, setaceous vacuity, ventriloquial verbosity and vaniloquent vapidity. Shun double-entendres, prurient pscosity, and pestiferous profanity, obscurant or apparent.”
In other words, say or write what you mean and DON’T USE BIG WORDS!