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Use the Right Word, not the Fanciest.

Simplicity is beautiful.

Or, as Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, “Less is More.”

Just look at that statement. With 10 letters, in three words, van der Rohe makes a complex assertion, using contrast as a tool: ‘Less’ and ‘more’ are opposites, paired by the strong, assertive ‘is.’

Rather than obscuring his meaning with wordiness, van der Rohe has used simplicity to amplify it.

Here’s another example of elegant simplicity:

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” (Indira Gandhi)

Here, the powerful metaphor of hands – reaching out to shake, or clenched – creates a  central opposition of peace and war.

In both cases, simple words have been used to share a complex meaning.

This is the mark of an effective writer.

Flowery language quickly becomes distracting and irritating.

Often, when I look at writing drafts, the first thing I notice is wordiness. Not only lots of words, but lots of fancy ones.

With writing like this, your reader notices your words, not what you’re trying to say. Think about it like this: how can I help my reader fully grasp what I’m trying to say?

Here’s an example:

Operational staff are supported to interact and communicate effectively with consumers to use strategies to ensure our product and services are easier to understand.

How could this be said simply? How about:

Our staff is trained to communicate effectively with clients.

Simple language is thoughtful language.

Of course, the simple language I’m advocating isn’t easy. In fact, it’s usually the result of editing, editing… and more editing. Looking for what you can cut out is one of the most difficult, but useful ways you can improve your writing.

Aim for the right word, not the fanciest.

Of course, sometimes you need to use a technical or difficult word. Sometimes no other word will do. That’s okay if you’re writing for an audience you can expect to understand you. Doctors, for example, expect complicated words in their textbooks.

However, if you’re sharing your expertise with a wider audience, and you have to use a difficult word, help your reader. You might give a definition in brackets, or a footnote, or via a hyperlink to them, the first time you use the word.

In general, though, simple is best. Plain words, put together effectively. That’s good writing.

Check out my writing courses, and other services, for more.

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