Short words add power and impact to your writing

friday, 23 october of 2009

Short words add power and impact to your writing

by Trey Ryder

Some people like to use long words, for many reasons. They think using long words makes them look smart. Or proves they know words the reader might not know. Or they've learned it's quicker to use jargon than to reduce words to their shorter counterparts.

Here's the bottom line: Long words are harder to read than short words. They are also harder to understand. They require more energy and brain power to decipher. As a result, they sap your reader's desire to continue reading. So your reader sets down your materials, fully intending to get back to them later Sometime. Maybe. Well, I guess not. And -- your materials end up in the round file.

Short words sound friendly because most people speak in short words. Short words keep readers reading because they don't have to translate long words into short words they can understand.

Don't be concerned about the number of words you use. People often think it's more efficient to use one long word in place of three or four short words. But three or four short words are still much easier to understand and digest than one long word. So don't look at word count. Instead, look at word length. If you can replace a long word with shorter words, it's almost always a good idea to do so.

Look at what you read over the next few days. Likely, the things you enjoy reading are written with short words. Things you dread reading are written with long words. In the battle for ease, understanding and impact, short words win every time.

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(Editor's Note: This is one of my favorite pieces, written some years ago by Joe Ecclesine. Hope you enjoy it.)

Big words are for the birds

by Joseph Ecclesine

When you come right down to it, there is no law that says you have to use big words in ads.

There are lots of small words, and good ones, that can be made to say all the things you want to say -- quite as well as the big ones.

It may take more time to find the small words -- but it can be well worth it. For most small words are quick to grasp. And best of all, most of us know what they mean.

Some small words -- a lot of them, in fact -- can say a thing just the way it should be said. They can be crisp, brief, to the point. Or they can be soft, round, smooth -- rich with just the right feel, the right taste.

Use them with care and what you say can be slow, or fast, to read -- as you wish.

Small words have a charm all their own -- the charm of the quick, the lean, the lithe, the light on their toes. They dance, twist, turn, sing... light the way for the eyes of those who read, like sparks in the night -- and stay on to sing some more.

Small words are clean, the grace notes of prose. There is an air to them that leaves you with the keen sense that they could not be more clear.

You know what they say the way you know a day is bright and fair -- at first sight. And you find as you read that you like the way they say it.

Small words are sweet -- to the ear, the tongue, and the mind.

Small words are gay -- and lure you to their song as the flame lures the moth (which is not a bad thing for an ad to do).

Small words have a world of their own -- a big world in which all of us live most of the time (which makes it a good place for ads, too).

And small words can catch big thoughts and hold them up for all who read to see -- like bright stones in rings of gold.

With a good stock of small words, and the will to use them, you can write ads that will do all you want your ads to do -- and more, much more.

In fact, if you play your cards right, you can write ads the way they all say ads should be done: in words like these (all the way down to the last one, that, is) of just one syllable.

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© Trey Ryder

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