I’ve long admired Richard Lederer’s writing on language. In his 1991 book, The Miracle of Language, Lederer sings the praises of the short word:
These four paragraphs contain 221 words, all of them one syllable. MS Word’s Readibility Score is 100% – the highest score possible. These short words are both profound and easy to absorb. It is simple, but not simplistic, and very persuasive. This passage represents clear, vivid, effective writing that can be easily absorbed by business people battling information overload.
The most evocative Bible passages and many proverbs use this same short word structure:
This does not mean “Don’t use big words.” We must use big words in our business writing and conversation, when they express a meaning no other word can. We work with technical and industry terms, and sometimes a big word best depicts this.
Two tips on clarity I always highlight in business writing courses:
- Never use a big word when a small word will do.
- Write to express, not to impress.