Smart people use big words, right?
Does it mean that using big words makes you sound smarter?
Well… according to this study, the answer is no.
Irony: The title of the study’s title is Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.
In fact, using words no one understands makes you sound small-minded.
To sound smart, you must stop trying to sound smart. Smart writing is simple writing, a relevant idea delivered clearly and directly.
Here are the best ways for smart writing…
1. Have something to say
This makes writing easier and faster. When you have nothing to say, you are forced to write sentences that sound meaningful but deliver nothing.
2. Choose simple words
Write use instead of utilize, near instead of close proximity, help instead of facilitate, for instead of in the amount of, start instead of commence.
Use longer words only if your meaning is so specific no other words will do.
3. Write short sentences
You should keep sentences short for the same reason you keep paragraphs short: they’re easier to read and understand.
Each sentence should have one simple thought. More than that creates complexity and invites confusion.
4. Use the active voice
Because passive voice bores people.
People are bored by the use of passive voice.
Notice the difference between the two sentences?
5. Use short paragraphs
Look at any newspaper and notice the short paragraphs.
That’s done to make reading easier, because our brains take in information better when it’s broken into small chunks.
In academic writing, each paragraph develops one idea and often includes many sentences. But in casual, everyday writing, the style is less formal and paragraphs may be as short as a single sentence or even a single word.
6. Eliminate fluff words
Mark Twain suggested that you should “Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
7. Don’t ramble
Rambling is a big problem for many writers. Not as big as some other problems, such as affordable health insurance or the Middle East, which has been a problem for many decades because of disputes over territory. Speaking of which, the word “territory” has an interesting word origin from terra, meaning earth.
But the point is, don’t ramble.
8. Don’t be redundant or repeat yourself
Also, don’t keep writing the same thing over and over and over. In other words, say something once rather than several times. Because when you repeat yourself or keep writing the same thing, your readers go to sleep.
9. Don’t over write
This is a symptom of having too little to say or too much ego. The so called verbal narcissism. Because you can keep writing and writing, and you’ve become so enamored by this that it’s easy to use a lot of words to present simple ideas, just because you can.
Yes, you can get sidetracked by the words themselves to such a point that you forget about the message.
What was I saying?
10. Edit, edit, edit
Shorten, delete, and rewrite anything that does not add to the meaning. It’s okay to write in a casual style, but don’t inject extra words without good reason.
To make this easier, break your writing into three steps:
- Write the entire text.
- Set your text aside for a few hours or days.
- Return to your text and edit.
None of us can ever be perfect writers, and no one expects us to be. However, we can all improve our style and sound smarter by following these tips and writing naturally.