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Value of Simple Words in Writing

Looking Up The Right Word
Looking Up The Right Word

Do you tend to employ multi-syllable words in your writing, or simple one-syllable words? Your choice can make a difference in readership enjoyment of your work.

The Premise

Whether compiling a lengthy, byzantine scientific paper or composing an epigrammatic piece of fiction, the writer generally should eschew long or unfathomable words that tend to send the exasperated reader to the dictionary or the work to the trash bin. For instance, the first part of the previous sentence might better read: "Whether creating a complex scientific paper or a short work of fiction, the writer should shun long or perplexing words." When presented with two words having duplicate meanings, one simple and one of a compound or polysyllabic structure, choosing the former invariably will make the text a much more enjoyable and understandable read.

The Effect

The practice of an author using short, simple words presents an often overlooked value to the written composition. Short words nowadays generally have much more impact than long words. That is due in part to the fact that the majority of today's readers, having far less spare time than their counterparts of a more leisurely time, consciously or unconsciously object to parsing obscure verbiage in an article or story, except, of course, when context demands multisyllable explanatory words of a technical or abstruse meaning.

The writer who learns the essentials of a spare style of composition confidently directs his or her work not only to both the academic and the more pragmatic reader, but to a younger group of budding literature lovers as well.

Simple words and phraseology, especially in English, generally stem from older languages that relied on plain, down-to-earth, clear-cut means of communication. Economical, even terse, writing, remindful of the action prose of Ernest Hemingway, offers short, one syllable, often four-letter words that consistently evoke vivid images giving life and meaning to the writing. The spare style of writing relies heavily on old language words often of Anglo-Saxon origin. These simple words we learn early in life and they stay with us for the simple reason that they provide the very essence of graphic clarity for everyday or new ideas.

The Satisfaction

The writer who favors simple words used correctly likely will enjoy a wider audience than the more erudite or intellectual author who employs scholarly, but less familiar words of obscure meaning. A reader who becomes impatient with the latter style of writing may reject the whole work on this account.

On the other hand, the more studious reader who does enjoy long words probably would also enjoy writing that contains primarily short words of strong impact. The writer who learns the essentials of a spare style of composition confidently directs his or her work not only to both the academic and the more pragmatic reader, but to a younger group of budding literature lovers as well.

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