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This chapter is from the book

Writing Shorter Words

We’ve now arrived at the micro level of writing—the words you use.

Look, I’m a fan of fancy words. I love ‘em; the more inventive, the better. I even wrote a book about improving your vocabulary, filled with lots of ten-dollar words.

Most readers, however, do not share my love of language, nor do they have as large a vocabulary. Not that you should talk down to your readers, but you do need to write in a fashion they understand.

That means using language that your readers are familiar and comfortable with. Your web page or Facebook status update is not the place to educate the unwashed or show off your knowledge of synonyms. All you need to do is get your point across; use words that do that most efficiently.

That means using shorter words, more common words, and less-technical words. Don’t break out the thesaurus; use words that your readers are likely to know.

And if you’re a frustrated linguist—tough. This isn’t about you; it’s about the people reading your words and the content you’re providing. Don’t make it any more difficult than it has to be for your readers to get the information they want and need. If that means feeding it to them with a very small spoon, so be it.

Besides, I like small words as well as large words. When it comes to language, size really doesn’t matter, does it?

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