The Choice Of Words: Introductory

From “The Complete Plain Words”.

The goal of writing professional document is to convey our meaning without ambiguity and without giving unnecessary trouble to our readers. To achieve this goal, we should follow the following principles:

  • Use no more words than are necessary to express your meanings, for it you use more you are likely to obscure it and to tire your reader.
  • User familiar words rather than the far-fetched if they express your meaning equality well, for familiar are more likely to be readily understood.
  • Use words with a precise meaning rather than those that are vague, for they will obviously serve better to make your meaning clear, and in particular prefer concrete words to abstract, for they are more likely to have a precise meaning.

To clarify, the far fetched words are by definition “recherche” words, and are thought to give distinction.

However, why do people still prefer complexity to simplicity, far-fetched word to the familiar word? The following are the potential reasons:

  • For officials, there is a temptation to cling too long to outworn words and phrase.
  • Many people retain in maturity the adolescent’s love for the long word.
  • It is sometimes dangerous to be precise, such as in modern politics.
  • Cautionary cliches are used automatically without thought of what they mean.
  • There is often a need for caution, and it is a temptation to hedging and obscurity.
  • What is vague is less likely to give offense, as we believe vague is less alarming; or the natural word may be rejected because it has acquired unpleasant associations.
  • People love of show off.
  • Because of laziness, clear thinking is hard work.

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