Stop needlessly using big words

By Jesse Miller

Two letters to the editor recently caught my attention, not because of their ideas, but rather their style. They appear to have been processed by software that needlessly turns short, common words into long, uncommon ones.

Needlessly using big words impresses no one. It actually distracts readers from the content. A long, uncommon word should not be used when a short, common one suffices. Of course, uncommon words are sometimes necessary, but they should be used with care. When writing, do not walk for miles to find an unfamiliar word when an ideal familiar one sits nearby. Even valid claims and criticisms are spoiled by randomly chosen synonyms.

The ability to write beautiful prose is rare. Those of us who lack it should avoid hiding behind vocabulary for fear of appearing ignorant, and instead express our ideas as clearly as possible.

If you are unconvinced, the following ridiculously (yet “accurately”) altered version of the above should help prove my point.

A pair of epistolatory remonstrances recently captivated my cognizance, not because of their semantic content, but rather their syntactical affectations. They have been manifestly metamorphosed by software that gratuitously transmutes pithy, demotic declarations into polysyllabic, unwonted ones.

Pleonastic sesquipedality bewitches not a soul. It verily diverts readers from the quintessence. A protracted, anomalistic word should not be employed when an aphoristic, quotidian mot juste suffices. Of course, non-prevalent words are, upon occasion, requisite, but they should be engaged sedulously. Upon inditing, do not peregrinate for parasangs to exhume an unwonted vocable when an exemplar alights in the vicinage. Even valid asseverations and animadversions are vitiated by adventitiously selected semantic equivalents.

The ability to prose pulchritudinously is unordinary. Those of us with a paucity thereof should eschew dissimulating phenotardophobically behind a lexicon, and instead explicate our apprehensions as perspicuously as practicable.

Jesse Miller

graduate student