Study: Short, simple words make for better writing

Stop trying to sound so cerebrally profound smart. Plus, the upside of collaborative writing, ‘content’ takes a holiday, the importance of subtitles, and more.

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“The Elements of Style” reminds us to use simple words wherever simple words will work. Do not “procure” something. “Get” it. It’s not a “compulsion.” It’s a “need.” And so on. Well now there’s scientific proof behind this point. One blogger broke it down for us this week.

Also, David McCullough’s writing cabin is awesome, penning with a partner isn’t so bad, and why we need to find another word for “content.”

Use short words: Have you ever read work where you thought the writer was trying too hard? Of course. We all have. And you likely thought that in part because the writer tried to use bigger words where smaller ones would fit. Now there’s scientific proof: using bigger words make you sound dumb (or at least make you sound like a lesser writer). Matt Seidholz breaks down a 2005 academic study that asked students at Stanford to compare thesaurus-aided essays with those using simple words. In three different tests, students said simpler language made for better writing, and 86 percent said they had used bigger words to sound smarter themselves. We’ve all likely done that too, at some point. And this was academic writing. So for your next blog post, it’s pretty safe to ditch the fancy stuff.

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