Big words don’t make you sound smart

Pick your words to get your point across and let the power of your ideas show you’re smart.

Our English teachers didn’t do us any favors. We used to get extra points for using multi-syllable words within a complex sentence structure. Now it only gets your emails, text messages and content relegated to the “read later” file, which usually ends up just getting deleted. So why do people still do it?

Because we think it makes us sound smart. Long, complicated sentences where we go into excruciating (see, I love big words, too!) detail assures the reader knows that we know our stuff. But there’s a problem…people have the attention span of a gnat. Using two big words when one small will do just wastes time. How does anyone know you’re smart if they never read what you wrote?

Let me illustrate.

We leverage state-of-the-art security protocols targeted at ensuring your highly confidential data is protected from external threats while simultaneously monitoring internal traffic for potential security breaches.

Admit it, you had to read the sentence twice to process it fully. It took 26 words to basically say we protect your data from internal and external threats.

Now string three of those sentences together into a paragraph and you have a big, dense block of text nine lines deep. Who’s going to read? No one.

The first thing to do is to throw out the following words: leverage, utilize, execute and commence. Replace with use, do and start.

If a word has more than 10 letters (excluding –ing), think hard about it. Does the word really help get your point across? Or, is it just fluff that muddies your message?

Jargon = wasted sentence space. Cut it out and use those words to actually say something of meaning.

Clear writing has a lot of components. The easiest one to control is your word choice. Big words have a place in writing, but it’s rarely in the everyday world. Pick your words to get your point across and let the power of your ideas show you’re smart.