You May Use Your Massive Vocabulary.

Posted: December 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Plain English: Tips | No Comments »

Plain English does not mean simple English. You are entitled to use your massive vocabulary, but use that vocabulary to show precision and convey nuance rather than to show off. Because colorful words convey images, they add a sparkle to your writing.

Write about a seminal case, a pivotal event, a bare declaration, a cascade of events, a vital resource, a critical need, a haphazard response, escalating hostilities, or a perfunctory answer. Explain how the company parsed its words or tried to mollify its customers through a pervasive campaign. A letter may be lucid, a speaker articulate and a visitor urbane. A defendant’s action may frustrate the parties’ agreement and poorly written briefs may confuse the issue. An outdated case may be a relic from a bygone era. A message may be cryptic and a building may be a fortress. Unruly students don’t have “altercations.” As Justice Roberts explained in Frederick v. Morse, 551 U.S. 393, they scuffle.

An artful choice of words marks a deft, confident writer. Fancy words chosen only to impress—such as legalese—mark the amateur.

So how nuanced is your vocabulary?

P.S. from the shameless self-promotion department: My book contains many more helpful tips like this and you can hold it in your hands!


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