We’ve all been there.

Someone decides to use lots of big, long words to make them feel more intelligent.



After all, it is a widely held belief that the more long words used, the more intelligent you sound.

But sometimes it makes you the listener or reader, feel less than. And far from motivated.

Last week I was reading through a client’s copy and briefing, and it struck me how complex and high-brow they were making it all sound; when the message should have been something altogether different to get the result they wanted.

That’s because sounding intelligent isn’t the same thing as being understood.

And in writing, if your reader doesn’t understand you, then they’re very unlikely to complete the action you want them to – be it buy, email, like, respond or follow.

The conclusion is that the truly intelligent people and those that value their communication have no need to show off by using flashy language.


I once read that people with good communication skills always over perform in their careers. What that means is that if you took two people with exactly the same skill sets, experience and knowledge, the one who was better able to present his or her ideas – either written or verbal – always did much better. It’s true. Much to the horror of the unhappily ‘out-performed’ one.

You need to get your ideas across clearly, memorably and quickly.

That means short, clear and concise words.

And if you apply George Orwell’s rules from his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, the condition is curable.

By following Orwell’s five rules for effective writing, you’ll distinguish yourself from competitors and clearly communicate your ideas.

  1.   Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2.   Never us a long word where a short one will do.
  3.   If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4.  Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5.  Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

When a longer word is the only word that will do, by all means use it. And use it boldly, for effect. However, if you have true authority in what you are communicating, it can just as easily be said in simple, plain English.

In words that we all understand and feel good about doing something with.

What do you think? Do long words make you sound more intelligent?

Photo via stock.xchng userbenipop


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