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Simple Language Resonates

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While some will tell you that replacing “helps” with “enables” makes you sound more professional, in this post, I’ll show you how it actually can hurt you.

Simple, direct, prose

Cut the extra fluff. There’s power in using strong, direct language.

Are you leveraging your assets to enhance your productivity, or are you getting the job done? See the difference?

The purple enemy

Sherice Jacob writes about the need to avoid purple prose on CopyBlogger.com.

“It’s those needlessly flowery sections of writing that are so detailed they draw the reader’s attention away from what you really want to say. It’s like you slathered the creativity on a little too thick.”

She also reminds us, on the web, and more recently on mobile devices, people demand brevity. Web and mobile readers are impatient and want you to get straight to the point.

The experiment

In his paper, Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly, Princeton Professor Daniel Oppenheimer discusses a series of experiments he designed.

His experiments tested how the addition of bigger words changed the reader’s perception of the author’s intelligence. He set out to discover if complex writing had the intended effect.

In his first of five experiments, he started with a series of graduate school admissions essays, and then substituted some of the original words with their “longest applicable thesaurus entries.”

The results

His results demonstrated that not only does increasing the complexity of your writing not make you sound more intelligent it does the opposite.

“The negative consequences of needless complexity were shown in widely disparate domains, across different types of judgments, and using distinct paradigms. The effect was demonstrated regardless of the quality of the original essay or prior beliefs about a text’s quality.”

Simply put, unnecessarily increasing the complexity of your writing actually makes it less effective.

Be vigilant

The next time you’re tempted to reach for the thesaurus, reach for the red pen instead. See how many words you can subtract. Because when it comes to words, less is more.

In fact, I recently wrote 5 Tips to Writing Better Copy to help you write better, stronger, and yes, shorter content.

So, while you’re going to be tempted to use complex phrases and words, you should instead simplify your language.

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