Do you prefer to use short or long words, when in fact the variance in meaning is negligible?
If you read Quora you will already know this. But for others, I would like to share what I found so interesting; only after you tell me what is your view on this.
I can't say I have a preference. Words are fun! It probably depends on what I've most recently read and likely a bit of current mood thrown in.
By the way, I just recently learned the word equerry. Now to find a way to use it!
Might come in use if you plan to do a page on either Old French or English nobility. The word is still in use in court (royalty) circles here in the UK. The Prince of Wales has an equerry (aka: aide de camp)
Yes, original intent is always a good option. What if, like many other words, we applied its meaning in a different way, for instance to an inanimate object as in "Her equerry does a great job but she is considering switching to an iPhone 7."
First, I am not a naturally gifted writer. I discovered 'how' I wrote depended on what I was reading. In other words, when I read philosophy I used big words and complex sentences.
Today, I use both types of words, but depends on the subject/topic, "audience", and then the flow of my content. I didn't use to care about using long words or long compound / complex sentences too. Until a few of my Hubber friends from Europe said they had to look up some words.
Also, I learned the optimal reading grade level for general online writing is the 8th grade. Maybe that does not explain using long words per se. Yet, at times simpler words, sentence structure, and paragraph length add to flow. There is an adage, 'From complexity comes simplicity'. I keep that in mind when I edit.
I am still learning how to find a balance. I practice writing then I use Hemingway Editor. It points out when a sentence is hard to read or very hard. And, it points out when there is a simpler word with the same meaning. Also, it shares reading level. I will rewrite the article using it seeking to hit the 8th grade. That at times also means raising a lower grade level.
Aw Tim, don't be so humble. I read your articles with great pleasure, and your rating tells you that there are many others who do too. It is a matter of balancing the output. Where is the happy medium. You do better than I, because you edit and vet.
Something I noticed is the size of my vocabulary has shrunk. In the past four years I have not read books, only read online articles, and social life is less than before. So, my vocabulary has narrowed, so words don't dance with me like they use to.
English is one of few languages with more than one word for each meaning. The words have come from several sources, Angle, Jute, Saxon, Norman Frankish (French), Ancient Greek and Roman (Latin).
Each source has a variety of words that suit the setting. For instance, in my own books that feature the Conquest era of English history my central character is a Dane, his kinsman Harold and his siblings are Anglo-Danes. They would not have used French-, Latin- or Greek-sounding,words in talking. Their tongue was 'Aenglish' (the word 'language' came from Norman French).
If I wrote about a more modern era i'd use the whole gamut of sources relevant to the situation. Soldiers don't use flowery or highfalutin intellectual references, just as mathematicians, scientists and botanists don't talk about bayoneting, ambushing or shooting an enemy. As Nigel Gresley said about the allocation of locomotives to tasks, "It's horses for courses".
Very interesting question, Marie.
I try to use simple, short words as far as possible. But, sometimes, longer, complex words and phrases may also roll on.
The replies offered here above are very good and insightful.
As Antariksh Bothale [writer of the article I read in Quora] say, it is good to vary short/long words, short/long sentences. It is all a matter of balance and IF you are a master like he is, you can have fun with it all. You write very well V M .
We have had such an interesting discussion in answering this question. I truly enjoyed what you all wrote, and hopefully other writers will read and gain from it.
My idea sprang from reading an article by Antharisksh Bothale who used to work at Amazon, and also write for Quora. There are other anwers which you can read, just for your own interest under the same heading, but I liked his best. He is a gifted writer.
I loved the way he writes- ". . .sometimes . . . . .a sentence which burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of drums. . ." or
"Each word has identity. . . . . fat buttery words. . . .crunchy, brittle, crackly words . . . ...elegant flowery words. . ."
To get to read his article you can go to quora and simply . . . use this as a prompter on the search bar - Whats-the-purpose-of-long-words-which-have-short-simple-equivalents
Each of your responses tackled the question in a different way and I loved reading them. I imagine that many others read them with as much interest. However, what I liked about Tim's response most is the fact that he honed in on what a not-so-confident writer would; and his methods would be very useful to new writers.
Thank you all.
If you are talking about writing fiction I use the words most suited to the characters. If my character is 10 I wouldn't use a vocabulary for a college student unless they were supposed to be a genius. A woman raised in the 60's who didn't go to college would have an average adult vocabulary unless there was reason it would be more or less advanced. A character who was trying to intimidate others with their intelligence might use ridiculously long and complicate words. I might have them make a mistake or two if I wanted them to appear to be clearly using particularly difficult words on purpose despite perhaps not always knowing what they actually mean themselves. When writing poetry I focus on every single word choice not just for meaning but for sound, rhythm and to ensure it provides the feeling or impression I am looking to express. For non-fiction writing I tend to fall back on my own vocabulary then when editing make sure the vocabulary is appropriate to the audience and reads well. Sometimes even though some longer words may be commonly known I think when people see a number of long words when skimming an article it turns them off even if they know what the words mean. I have a Ph.D. and I know when I see an article that seems filled with long words I often search for another one so I don't need to wrestle through the extra time it takes to read that article compared to a simpler one. I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing you are getting at but that would be my approach to choosing wording.
You might introduce Malapropism to one of your characters to ridicule them. A touch of comedy goes a long way to prove a point that might otherwise seem pompous. It's been used to great effect on stage with a straight man to bear the 'pomp'
Good point! I'll have to remember that. Thanks.
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