Tuesday, July 26, 2016


As writers, we consider ourselves better educated than most, especially when it comes to our vocabularies.  We love to toss around large words that only a few will know in order to show how smart we are.  Sometimes this use of language is part of us and our everyday conversation, but often we’ll use a higher vocabulary just to be an erudite prick.

There’s a fine line between educated and elitist.  Elitism is fine if you revel in making people feel small, but when it comes to getting people to read our work, elitism tends to drive people away.  Few people read to begin with, and those that do like to think of themselves as educated also.  Showing off with verbose pomposity will make people desert you.

I’m not saying to dumb down your language, but rather to consider your audience.  You would speak differently to a group of Soldiers than you would to a group of lawyers, so writing to your target audience should be no different.  What’s their reading comprehension level?  In what style do they like to be spoken to?  Will they get your obscure reference, or will they scratch their heads while wondering what you mean?

Handy tip – if your readers are regularly scrambling for a dictionary, you aren’t doing your job, which is to communicate your story in a way that’s both enjoyable and easily understood by the audience.  Further, if you try to use big words that you don’t normally use in an attempt to sound like a big shot, your audience will see through it.  You’ll sounds like you’re searching, and your word choice will come off as forced.

Think about all of this in advance, and double check it again as you go back over your stuff.  If you think your readers will have questions about your word choice, chances are that they will.  Getting people to read your work is hard enough – don’t increase the level of difficulty.

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