Should you dumb down your writing?


“It’s not just the vocabulary words that matter, but understanding the relationships that underlie the words — the fact that ‘eight’ is one more than ‘seven’ and one less than ‘nine.'”

via Study: Why Language Has More to Do with Math than You Think – TIME Healthland.

As a writer and an editor, I come across many people who will use the biggest word they can think of, even if it makes no sense in the context. Come on, this isn’t showing off! All it does is make you look silly.

There’s nothing wrong with big words; I like to use them whenever I can. The thing is, we sit and learn a long list of vocabulary words all through school–for spelling class, for the SATs, for various classes . . . How many of them do we actually use though? I want you to think about it, think about a news article or a blog post that is well-written and informative. What kind of language does it use? Who is its target audience?

I’ve learned that you have to write as simple as possible to reach the biggest audience. For someone who loves language and words in general, it can get depressing at times.

I think that I keep this blog somewhat simple, but I do sometimes analyze books I read. Funny story: When I was applying for jobs, I had a phone interview with a person who had read my blog. He strongly implied that I write at too high of a level for his intended audience. I suppose I should have been . . . flattered? Other than my series that analyzed Twilight, I think that I keep my writing pretty simple on this blog. I can write at a more complex level, and I can write on a simpler level. I did tell him that, but I didn’t get that job so maybe he didn’t believe me.

Also, I’d like you to keep in mind when I say I write at a simple level for my audience, it is so I can reach a wider variety of people, not because I’m implying that my readers are dumb!

Do you dumb down your writing for your audience?

2 thoughts on “Should you dumb down your writing?

  1. Yes and no. I do still consult my thesaurus from time to time but not so much to sound impressive but to find the right word. I started blogging about 18 months ago, and I definitely see a difference in my writing progress. Mostly I write less. I haven’t changed my style, just how many words it takes to say it (or break posts up into parts).

    BTW, I found your post via Twitter #postaday2011.

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