Bigger Isn't Always Better

(TED) Simplicity is the key to effective writing.
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  • 1We all know this scene.
  • 2Dorothy closes her eyes and repeats the good witch's mantra:...
  • 3..."No coordinates exist like one's domicile."
  • 4Only Dorothy doesn't say that; she says five one-syllable words:...
  • 5..."There's no place like home."
  • 6Each a word you probably learned in your first year of speaking, each perfectly concise.
  • 7It's not that L. Frank Baum didn't have a thesaurus,...
  • 8...it's that in most cases, ten-dollar words fail.
  • 9Would Aerosmith have had a hit with "Ambulate This Direction"?
  • 10Probably not.
  • 11Would Patrick Henry have ignited a revolution by saying...
  • 12..."Provide me with liberty or bestow upon me fatality."
  • 13Unlikely.
  • 14When it comes to words, bigger isn't always better.
  • 15Ten-dollar words are rendered worthless if they're not understood.
  • 16That's not to say every piece of literature should be written out of fourth grade reading level,...
  • 17...but it is important to know your audience.
  • 18If you're a novelist, your audience is probably expecting 300 pages of vivid descriptors.
  • 19...at the very least, they're expecting you won't use the same 50 words to fill those pages.
  • 20But most of us don't have the luxury of a captive audience.
  • 21We're competing against a whole world of distractions,...
  • 22...and we're fighting for space in an attention span that continues to shrink across generations.
  • 23So get to the point already.
  • 24Variety may be the spice of life, but brevity is its bread and butter.
  • 25So when it comes to ten-dollar words, save your money and buy a Scrabble board