Simple Success?

United States
March 18, 2008 1:16pm CST
Like Most of you here at Mylot, I am a "wannabe" writer. I have been writing since I was 9 years old.. and I've found that my love for words has grown more with each passing year. I absolutely love reading some of your writings here at Mylot, and have my favorites that I navigate to as soon as I see a new discussion or topic pop up. I may not always comment, but I DO always read! Anyway, last night I was telling a friend about my writing and he asked for a sample and I showed some of my past work. His comment totally floored me! He said that I was a great writer and that the only thing he could see that might need "Jazzing up" would be my vocabulary... HE was talking about my lack of using big words! lol! I know big words! And I even love big words! And I use them in my head when I begin writing! But when it comes to using those big words I find simpler words to replace them.. For the simple reason that I would rather someone not have to go look in a dictionary to see what I am saying. I want to lay it all out plainly and to the point. I want to be understood, more than anything, I suppose. I strive to accommodate the reader... rather than myself. I'm not sure if this is the wrong way to write, but this is how I've always done it. I want to be heard and understood in communicating my thoughts.. so badly, that I seek the smallest and simplest words to take the reader on the journey that I have opened. Perhaps, I have been going about it all wrong, and this is why I've not been successful in my art. I have a few young readers and I suppose that I keep them in mind when writing. What is your opinion on the use of big complicated words in your own writings? use them? or simplify?
2 people like this
14 responses
• United States
18 Mar 08
I usually like to keep it simple. It saves from having to provide definitions but I have started adding the definitions to my discussions when I use words that maybe people from other cultures haven't learned yet. Sometimes I need to use a word like livid in place of mad to fully get my point across. Other times I use big words just to confuse people and make the extent of my vast vocabulary rather apparent. But I would never criticize someone for their lack of "big words" as long as the rest of their writing was put together well.
1 person likes this
• United States
18 Mar 08
I think that you and I are on the same page on this topic! lol! I tend to use big words more often in speech rather than on paper.. because I can see who I am talking to and know them well enough to know what they are capable of understanding.. But when someone is reading your work, you are reaching out in the dark. And while reaching in the dark, I like to keep it simple enough to grab them! lol!
• United States
18 Mar 08
I have to say that livid could be very confusing choice to a non English speaking person if you were trying to say very angry or even furious as it could also mean 1. Discolored, as from a bruise; black-and-blue. 2. Ashen or pallid: 3. Dark reddish color Sorry but I taught English to Germans so I know how confusing our language can be.
1 person likes this
@teeaye98 (287)
• United States
18 Mar 08
I agree with you when it comes to "big words" in writing. I was a member of a very big church in Pittsburgh, PA and the pastor of the church was a journalist by profession. He had sense retired and is pastoring full-time now. I loved his preaching style and he always kept my attention with his anecdotes. My only problem was that a lot of the words he used were too "big" for the average person. You would have to bring your dictionary to church, along with your bible, in order to understand what he was talking about. So I definitely agree when it comes to using "big words" otherwise you will not be understood by the masses.
1 person likes this
• United States
18 Mar 08
OH! I have to agree with you! I have seen many evangelists and pastors lose their audiences by going over their heads while using those high dollar, college worthy, words! I have noticed that (with most) the more education they get, the worse they are at public speaking! They tend to forget that they are talking to average (non-college educated) people who are there seeking spiritual knowledge rather than college grammar. My husband is a Minister and I have to tell him constantly to scale his words down for his listeners... but most times I have to ask him to not take a subject so deep (Biblical topics) that it leaves people standing there wondering what he talking about. Understanding is everything when you have something important to say.
@tinkerick (1256)
• United States
18 Mar 08
I think you're in the right to simplify too. Although we writers have a tendency to think big, we must take into consideration who is reading our work. Big words have their place, but it's not in every story. I certainly wouldn't use them just to "jazz up" a work. When you do that I think big words tend to look really out of place. They need to naturally fit into the work not get shoved in.
1 person likes this
• United States
18 Mar 08
I tend to use all my big words for insulting people (come on, you know it! some people need it!) not to "dazzle" my readers. You are right! big words have their place and fit in naturally without the need to shove them in.. much like a artist who uses too much of one color can throw the piece off.. words tend to do the same thing.
@klaudyou (501)
18 Mar 08
This is the good way. Your work will be appreciated more for that. I believe in "great ideas, huge concepts, small words". Because the purpose of writing is (i think for you, too) conveying a message to the reader. So we have to do anything to reach this goal, including making sure the language we use is not ambiguous. I have seen a lot of texts (mostly newspaper articles) where big words were used to explain obvious facts, that didn't need much explanation as they were...It's really like the author is trying to show himself that he can build complicated phrases, with no care whatsoever for the reader. A good text is the one who is giving a strong message, but it's reachable and understandable at the same time...
1 person likes this
• United States
18 Mar 08
I like that! "great ideas, huge concepts, small words" the greatest ideas doesn't have to have the biggest words to make the message powerful! I have read news articles and some people's work that left me feeling like they really had nothing to say and HAD to use big words to make it sound better than it was... When I have something to say, I want to make sure that everyone can hear and understand my message... When I have nothing to say, I just don't write! lol! thanks, for your response!
@Ldyjarhead (10157)
• United States
18 Mar 08
I will sometimes tailor my writing style dependent on the topic I'm writing about and who the audience is. I would think that most people would generally do the same, unless they had only the most basic of writing skills and couldn't rise above that. Having said that, while I didn't see any overly 'big words', I found the words you did choose to write above to be subsantial and you certainly don't appear uneducated. How'd I do?
• United States
18 Mar 08
LOL! you did good! I could understand everything ya said! I only have to look up 4 of the words you used! lmao!
@Ldyjarhead (10157)
• United States
18 Mar 08
Hot-diggity-dog! (And I'm not even a writer)
• United States
19 Mar 08
Now you're talkin' my language! I understood that! your simplicity is overwhelmingly appreciated! Nice without being ostentatious!
• United States
18 Mar 08
I am not a writer but in using the English language for normal communications I prefer to use the correct word as it takes me too long to try and find a simpler way of saying it. I also find that if I use the correct "big" word it will do a better job of getting the meaning across. Usually simpler words can have more than one meaning. My foreign friends tell me the English language is so difficult to learn because so many simple word have more than one meaning.
• United States
18 Mar 08
I totally agree with you if you are talking to someone you know what level of English they understand but when writing you do not know the level of understanding the reader has.
• United States
18 Mar 08
Ya know, We created the English language to mess with foreigner's heads! LOL! Lets see, we have words that have two and sometimes three meanings and words that are spelled the same that mean different things, while sounding different... and words spelled differently that have the same meaning! lol!
• United States
27 Mar 08
Big words are fine if you are a collage professor or something. But it's just as hard if you ask me to get your point across in a manner that everyone can understand. What makes this guy an authority anyway? I'm with you, keep it simple, especially here on myLot where there are so many people who don't speak English fluently.
@gabs8513 (48716)
• United Kingdom
21 Mar 08
I prefer to simplify I have been working on a book for a year now but at the moment I can not be asked to keep at it lol but no doubt I will be going back to it soon I do not have a lot of work left on it so I think by the end of the Year I will have finished it Good luck to you and I say keep it simplified
@fayfun (37)
• China
19 Mar 08
for me,English is my second language,I hope I can read something that is easy to understang,but not with large big words.Using big words in work doesn't meaning anything.So keep doing in your own style.I think you will find your real readers finally.
19 Mar 08
I think there is a lot of power and inspiration in every word that exists, but its not which ones are the longest or most complicated that use this power, its how you string them together. I understand "articulate" means artuclating yourself - expressing yourself and that to me means getting your point across in the most effective way possible. Why complicate your writings with big words when there is just no need!
@fifileigh (3619)
• United States
19 Mar 08
i think write whatever and however makes you happy...it is your style... and everyone has their own style and voice, and that is how you should write with your own specific voice...that is what people will know you for, your particular style...and that is how people will remember you as a writer...you particular voice and style of writing...
@aero89 (422)
• United States
19 Mar 08
I don't think anybody should 'dumb it down' on someone else's account. If a reader has a question about what a word means, they can always ask - but something tells me context will almost give away any word. We've all have our 2 dollar words, and why not use them? And hey, we learned them from somewhere ya know, so it's really not an issue for me. There's nothing wrong with a reader learning a new word! On that same token, I don't think we wannabes should go using the thesaurus just to sound wiser. But for sure, if the word comes naturally, use it! (-:
@patgalca (14366)
• Orangeville, Ontario
19 Mar 08
When you are writing dialogue, the words have to convey the character. If the person is a scholarly professor than bigger words would fit into his dialogue. As for the context of the story, it is not recommended by agents/editors/publishers to use big words. They want to read a story like they are not reading a story. Big words just complicate things. Unless you are trying to be the next Ernest Hemingway, it is best to keep it simple.
@NeoComp (1320)
• United States
19 Mar 08
I try to keep my writings simple and to the point. You are right, you don't want someone to have to wonder what you are talking about. It's much better to have people know what you are saying, so they can get the point.