Do big words make you sound smarter?

Would you like to facilitate the functionality of your composition to ensure its consultative elements are maximized?

Right. Me neither.

Do you know what that long sentence means? Sure, you can figure it out if you go over it slowly, translating each word into one that makes more sense. I’ll save you the work:

Would you like to improve your writing?

I know, it looks a lot shorter. But that’s really all those fancy words were saying.

I started this article with that terrible sentence to illustrate why big words aren’t always better. Sometimes – like the word illustrate in the previous sentence – they’re perfect. They help the reader see a mental picture of what you’re writing about.

Big words can slow the reader down and make it harder to understand your message. Big words can also be vague – think of the word facilitate. What picture does it paint in your mind? I’m guessing you’re seeing a lot of blank space right now.

What if you just said help? I see a picture of a young man helping an older woman cross the street.

That’s the power of choosing the right word: you paint a picture in the reader’s mind. That means the reader has a much better chance of remembering what you’re staying.

Remember, you’re the expert in your field. Whether you’re a lawyer, a journalist, a business owner or a healthcare provider, your reader already knows you’re the expert. And if they’re on the fence about whether to trust you, big words definitely won’t convince them. Instead, big words could very well persuade them you’ll be hard to understand.

Your clients and your audience come to you because they’re looking for clarification and help. They don’t have time for you to confuse them. They just want to understand – clearly – what’s happening and how you can help.

So, knock those big words out of your writing. When you let one in, consider it carefully and make sure it’s just right. Otherwise, write with simple, well-chosen words that paint a picture in the reader’s mind.