Me Use Big Words

Hertz Hall - Picture courtesy of Central Washington University

There’s a reason for the above picture, really.

It’s a picture of the Hertz Music Hall at Central Washington University. Back in the day, I knew it all too well.

Hertz Hall is the place I took the majority of college classes, one being Music History taught by (now retired) Professor Eric Roth. After reviewing an essay/report, he singled me out in front of the class stating something like this:

“Paul, if you plan to graduate college, you should really improve your writing skills.”

It was years ago, it was embarrassing, but I absolutely thank Dr. Roth. I’m not a professional writer, but like to think the skills have improved since then.

With that said, Dean from Speaking Freely writes a post labeled Never Use a Large Word when a Diminutive (small) One Will Suffice. Example: “fabricated” = “lied”.

I’m looking at a client document for the FT job I presented this morning. It includes words such as “utilized”, “purchase”, and “query”. I’m thinking “use”, “buy”, and “question” may have been better words.

Barb, or anyone else, any thoughts?

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3 Responses to Me Use Big Words

  1. Barb Prindle says:

    Well hello there Paul. You know, people, like your Prof., like to come up with rules about writing. But to me it’s a question of tone. In general I’d say yes, the common wisdom for web writing is to write for scanning and keep it simple and short. But maybe this client has really fancy pants clients. Maybe the tone needs to be highly educated and sophisticated and a little distant. In that case, throwing in some “utilized” and “purchases” enhances their tone. When I see words like these, I think about how it makes me feel as a reader, and if that is a match with the personality/brand of the client. To me, the words are a little cold, highly, highly professional. I might feel good reading words like that if I’m hiring an engineer that I want to be smarter than me, but not so good if I’m looking for a doggie trainer or therapist, and I want warmth and approachability. There’s my two cents. Thanks!

  2. DG says:

    I agree with Barb, it comes down to the audience. If you’re writing for lawyers or politicians, make sure to throw in five dollar words and make the sentence structure complex and nearly incomprehensible. Throw in lots of jargon.

    We use jargon to include, and exclude. We learn to use jargon at a very early age as using jargon properly allows us to become part of the group. Use jargon improperly and we immediately identify ourselves as an outsider.

    Personally, I prefer a more conversational tone.

    Really good writers have the ability to make very complex subjects easy to understand and easy to read and whether they admit it or not, even those highly educated folks prefer writing that is easy to digest.

  3. Paul says:

    Thanks Barb and Dean!

    Dean, I’m laughing too hard on the five dollar words idea. It’s a good idea. 🙂

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