Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trying to Sound Smart Might Make You Sound Stupid

Have you ever had to write a paper and felt that neither the way you usually speak nor your most academic or "smartest" language would work for the assignment?

I think everyone has felt this way, at least once his or her life. I know I have!

Now, have you ever read through your own paper or perhaps even when you were writing it got confused about what you were saying? If you answered yes, what was the cause of your confusion?

Was it because you were trying so hard to sound smart that your writing became so convoluted that your meaning was lost? Or was it because you hit that right click and went to the Thesaurus option a little too often?

If either of these rang true, revise, rewrite, or rework that paper. If you get lost writing or reading your own paper, imagine what your intended reader will feel!

Sounding smart at the expense of losing your reader(s) is not a risk worth taking. Meaning and comprehension hold much more weight than using a bunch of those 50-cent words (read: big, long words that may or may not fit the meaning you are trying to convey) does.

Otherwise, you run the risk of sounding like Joey's speech from the Friends episode for Monica and Chandler's upcoming wedding.

If you clicked on the link, the message that Joey was trying to get across to his audience was so confusing and aimless that it became meaningless. Essentially, what he meant to say was that he loved his friends and hoped that they would live a life full of happiness and love. Well, why not just say that!

Often times, we spend so much time trying to sound smart that we end up sounding, well, stupid to our readers (especially if they are more educated and/or more familiar with the material we are writing about). This is the exact result we were attempting to avoid by using big words. In other words, it is counter-productive.

If using the simplest word that means exactly what you want and need to say works, then why would you use a bigger word that does or could lose some of your meaning?

The smartest thing you could do is use that simple word with the exact meaning you intended to convey to the readers.

1 comment:

  1. It can also make you sound pretentious. I am a firm believer in engaging writing, and in this quick fire-24/7 world that we live in,attention spans have gone by the way side. Although, fancy smancy writing (when done right...and well) can make you seem impressive, its often lost on the people actually reading your work. My advice is to always try to endear your audience to you, teach them something...but do it in a lanugage they understand (but refrain from texting that just makes you look lazy).