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Does Using Big Words Make You Sound More Intelligent?

Updated on March 18, 2015

What does it really take to sound as if you know what you are talking about? Many people believe that the use of big words will make you sound smarter, but that approach only works if you know the meanings of those words and use them correctly. Anyone can spout out a string of multi-syllabic words, but do they possess the logic to use them in the right context? Furthermore, does the person with whom they are trying to communicate understand the words that the speaker/writer is using?

Effective communication can only occur when the message sent is received and interpreted in the manner intended by the receiving party. In other words, you want to make sure that you choose your words carefully, so that people can understand what you are trying to say. Using too many big words can confuse and intimidate some people. Personally, I find it a big turn-off to have to grab a dictionary in order to get through a book or article.

Now this is just me ranting, but nonetheless, it's an excellent example. The textbook for my pop culture class, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture , by John Storey, is very hard to read through. The author uses way too many large words, and I end up running for a dictionary every time I sit down to read it. While the author uses these large words correctly, he forgets that many average people don't understand the terminology that he is using.

So, yes, I believe that using a few large words can make you sound more intelligent, but only if they are used properly, with a solid knowledge of the subject matter, and can be easily understood by your audience. Using large words improperly can actually have the opposite effect.

What do YOU think? Can using large words make you sound smarter?

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    • Sullen91 profile image

      Sullen91 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic Region, US

      I think an important notion left unsaid is that an interlocutor cannot use onerous -- or ostentatious, "big" words and be taken seriously without the interlocutor abetting the recipient's receptivity (to recognize and form an understanding of an intention) through the accompaniment of rich gradations of syntax which support advanced word constructions.

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 5 years ago from London

      I think using long words just because you can makes you sound pompous. However, to the right ears it is nectar. So the moral of the story is to pay attention to your audience - you'll soon see whether you are talking over their heads. If your intention is to communicate effectively, you need to explain what you mean. This would give you a bit of leeway to use big words, as you can first tell them what you are going to say, then say it, and then tell them what you have said (summarise).

      As a solicitor, I used to work with barristers at Court, and I often had to act as "interpreter" between them and my less-educated clients who, although speaking the same language,English, clearly hadn't a clue what their barrister was trying to communicate to them.

    • bluebird profile image

      bluebird 6 years ago

      I think the words of Plato say it well and can answer your question thumbs down: "Wise men talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something"

    • ThunderKeys profile image

      ThunderKeys 6 years ago

      Having polymorphously-disambiguated on your stated hypothetical dis-neo-confabulation, there is a concurrency in my amenability -heuristic...LOL

      Put simply, I agree!

      - Great Hub!


    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      You are so correct in saying that they have to be understood by your audience. Otherwise you sound intelligent, but also unapproachable. Good points!

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      This is why introductory textbooks to my psychology classes tended to make some conditions sound like they were found in everyone -jargon had to be defined in a way that the layperson would understand. Once you got to second year, it was understood that you were introduced to these terms the year before and could then be taught the subtleties of, for example, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia in al its sub-divisions, etc. It is also why there is something known as "First Year Medical student's Disease"-every condition is so described to make the first year student think he or she has every condition that ever existed.

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 6 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      It is my conviction that the enormanocity of one’s vocabulary can articulate the intellect of one’s individual contentment amongst his/her assemblage of acquaintances and furthermore stimulate the infatuatable series of adequate and reasonable conversablity of a particular set of circumstances.

      or maybe not....

      sorry, I got carried away...

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      I agree with you that using a few large words in the correct context can make one sound a bit more intelligent. On the other hand using those same words in the wrong context or too many words con make one sound "foolish" or "show-off".

      I believe the best way to sound intelligent is to know the subject matter in which you speak. You can sound intelligent by your delivery and knowledge.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

      If they are necessary, by all means, or you are conversing with a known person that assuredly knows what you said, yay! In a hub of diverse skills reading, not so much, 50

    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 6 years ago

      I agree wholeheartedly in what you have said. I would also add that I think it depend son where and how the words are being use. Example...I once worked with a woman who had the rare combination of street smarts, book smarts and an array of experiences that taught her even more. She was the most down to earth person you would ever meet, but she had the ability to "rip you a new one" by her words. You knew you were being ripped but you may or may not know what she was saying. Pretty cool!