Big Words Make You Sound Smart, Don’t They?

By Mary

Many people think that they sound smarter when they use big words. The truth of the matter is that smart communicators use words that (a) they understand and (b) their readers are likely to understand.

The purpose of writing is to communicate. Communication is the process by which meaning is created and exchanged. If the person who reads your writing doesn’t understand what you are trying to say, no communication occurs when he or she reads your writing.

In order to communicate effectively, you have to use language properly, and you have to use language that people are likely to understand.

Lately I have noticed many people misusing the word “detrimental” when what they really mean is “instrumental” or “important.” For example, I read a memo that someone wrote requesting permission to attend a meeting. The memo said, “It is detrimental that I go to the meeting next week.”

Ironically, the misuse of the word implies the exact opposite of what the person meant. Detrimental implies that some negative outcome would be associated with the person’s attendance at the meeting. What the writer meant was “important.”

A misused big word has the opposite effect of making you sound smart! A big word used correctly, but unnecessarily, has the effect of making you sound pedantic. If you have to go get a dictionary to see what “pedantic” means, I have made my point!

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125 Responses to “Big Words Make You Sound Smart, Don’t They?”

  • Jack Book

    really nice writing,
    thanks ms mary.
    i love it

  • C. Grey

    That’s a good point. I’m guilty of that sometimes and it was a daily encounter in college papers (if used incorrectly). But how can you expect people to expand their vocabulary when they’re constantly writing for people who see the same words over and over again? Throwing in a few words, that require a brief flip of the dictionary, can only be beneficial.

  • Simon Raybould

    It’s not just about making sure you use the right word correctly! It’s about making sure you use an appropriate word.

    By that I mean that because writing is not about you, it’s about your audience, it’s important to use the kinds of words that they can understand.

  • quench

    The problem is that most people who misuse “big” words actually think they KNOW what the word means. They’re not usually reaching for something to make them sound smart. The example you give sounds like it’s an instance of this. In my office, people misuse phrases all the time – but they have ready (incorrect) definitions for them. I was amazed when I found this out. The problem can’t be fixed by asking people to be humble in their word choices, since they don’t know what they don’t know.

  • praveen

    do not fear to negotiate, and don’t negotiate without fear.

  • Joy-Mari Cloete

    I think there is a very fine line between using the precise word, and using a word that sounds important.

    I would much rather use the precise word to describe a situation, than to settle on another word that just doesn’t convey the same feeling.

  • lynz

    anyone can say big words. however, doing so does not prove your intelligence. infact, it’s more of how you speak and use your words.

  • Jessie

    I don’t remember exactly when, but an old teacher of mine was telling me how if you use “big words,” generally people will listen to you LESS because they don’t understand what you are saying. Or they have to much pride to admit they don’t know what you are saying so will be even more confused.
    Just a thought to chew on.

  • Hannah

    quite the detrimental point you have made.
    XD

  • Tina

    Great article!

  • allison

    I completely agree and am afraid to say that i have done this many a time to impress my piers but more often than not, it has the opposite effect. I do however, find it hilarious how people use the the term “ironic” completely inappropriately when in fact the situation is merely coincidence. Then agen i also agree with some of the comments above, if you dont use words that people cant understand then they wont ever learnt he meaning of them and stick to the restricted vocabulary that they have. Im aware that i probably sound like a complete idiot so im going to stop typing now.

  • Joe

    ‘Detrimental’ is a “big” word now?

    I’m sorry, but if that’s the case, I don’t think writing in English has much of a future. And it certainly won’t if we start dumping words our readers may not know; that can only lead to a vicious cycle where generation upon generation of writers reduce the vocabulary available.

    I still remember being told that one of my stories was poorly written because the reader did not understand the word ‘lascivious’, and suggested I find an alternative. The thing is: that was exactly the word I’d wanted to use and it was exactly what that sentence needed. No alternatives could be used as replacement that wouldn’t add at least a couple of words, and in all cases broke the flow of the story…

    I felt like I was stuck between two extremes: use the tools available for the job, or literally pander to ignorance.

  • Google

    the way we are going to do this is were going to take different sized batteries and doing the same to each of them by taking steel wool and attaching it to each side of the batteries and finding out which battery burns the steel wool tyhe fastest

  • Azmanar

    Hi,

    I was having coffee with some friends at a side-walk cafe. Then we heard a loud crashing sound. It must have came from an accident few blocks away.

    I overheard one guy in the cafe said, ” I think, its a crucial accident “. He probably meant that it was a serious one.

    To me, his use of the word “crucial” is worse than the accident.

  • Marjorie McPherson

    Your comments are valid and well made. Your readers’ blogs are embarassing. Poor spelling, poor grammar, poor vocabulary — did anyone listen in grammar school?

  • Craig

    I agree that a good vocabulary is necessary, and I think everyone should be well rounded and affluent in their own language. But the laughable thing I see when I read certain things, such as comments on a science blog etc., is that people tend to use words that they probably had to look up in a dictionary while writing it, just to try to sound intelligent. I usually see right through it and see that the writer is over-compensating for a lack of a good vocabulary, which doesn’t necessarily mean you are any less intelligent, I regress. I think you should just write about what you want, and how you want, and try to learn how to write better by taking a class or (stay with me here) actually going to college and getting your full potential.
    Anyway, sorry for the rant, I guess it’s just a pet peeve of mine to see people trying too hard and not being themselves.

  • Elizabeth

    This was dreadful. Thanks but no thanks.

  • yobro

    uhh detrimental could have been used correctly in that context if it was impervious to their health in order to go to this meeting…

  • kimi

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Azmanar’s comment about the man who wrongly used the word “crucial” is something I commonly witness here in Asia. (I laughed when I read that!;))

    On a side note, I was in a cafe and there was a chinese lady talking to an Arab tourist. She said, “I never talk chinese one. Cantonese, mandarin I dono one. I just speaking english one.” I understand that she was trying to impress the tourist with her English skills, by perhaps pretending that she only speaks English (in asia, somehow if you only speak English and don’t know how to speak your mother tongue, it shows that you are of a higher ‘status’) but I just had to laugh hard when I heard what she said.

    Sorry for the long rant!

  • haha

    Yes, I am categorically certain that it is unequivocally incontrovertible that I recurrently employ gargantuan and multifarious terminology throughout the progression of otherwise ingenuous assertions with the intention of facilitating the manifestation of the opinion that I am of extraordinary and superior astuteness.

  • Stephen Thorn

    (laughing along with haha)

    Joe, I agree completely. There are instances wherein only a particular word will suffice and nothing else will cut the muster. Unfortunately, there are many people who wouldn’t know how to use a dictionary (if they even own one!) for anything more intellectually stimulating than squashing spiders.

    I suppose the issue becomes what we, as writers, are seeking to accomplish. If we’re writing to convey information to readers on an intellectual level equal to our own, then we should use whatever words the work needs to do the job; if we’re writing for children, farm animals, or dullards then we must “dumb down” our vocabulary accordingly, lest we leave our readers in the dust. Neglecting to follow this simple equation will likely lead us to failure.

    I tend to be a bit verbose in my writing, I think, and certainly use some wording that would have been more at-home in a previous generation. I don’t think I’m wrong for doing so, because I get my point across, convey the information I wish to transmit, and entertain my readers (many of which are intelligent and discerning persons [after all, look whose work they’re reading hahaha] and aren’t derailed by my word choices)…and at the same time I’m enjoying what I do, which makes it a solid-gold win-win situation for me.

  • myesha

    thanks for helping the word.

  • Bob Newman

    I agree completely that using words that are likely to be understood by a smaller percentage of your audience is a bad idea. So I always wonder why so many continue to do that.

    It occured to me that many do it just to keep up with others they work with so that don’t appear to be less knowledgeable. The other reason might be that if many of the people you work with talk like that, you need to keep up with the conversation. You need to at least understand what the others are saying, and you can’t change other peoples idea of simple communication.

    I am currently reading books written by Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. I find the same difficulties in reading their books. I believe these men to be intelligent enough to know how to communicate in a simpler fashion, but still use these big or obscure words. I suspect it is in the nature of the groups of people they work with that it becomes a part of their communication whether they agree with the methods or not.

    My point is that even when I read or listen to people that I respect and I believe can communicate better, they are almost forced to do so at a higher level that the average person.

    So, like it or not, I think we all have to increase our vocabulary to at least keep up the those who won’t keep it simple.

  • ryan

    well i agree, it is rather auspicious to aquire precise words in your vernacular.

  • Orion (Age 12)

    I totally agree with Joe, in number 12. I find that using substantial words occasionally allows others to adapt to that level of vocabulary. By concealing words that help develop the mind, we only reduce the words in our knowledge. Eventually, we will realize our intelligence has decreased so much, that words such as, “insane” and “active” will be classified as big words. A hilarious incident that occurred at my school was when the area around me began to stink and I said to my friend, “Did you flatulate?” He replied, “Can you speak English.”

  • Brittany

    Okay, I am 12. Shocker huh? But, I do know that a myriad of people try to use copious amounts of large words without completely understanding the definition of the morpheme. Therefore , amidst using the edict now what the hell you are phrasing.

  • kydett

    We never use polite words in the conversations between freinds. People are different of thinking; some of them are fond of being affable when they are talking to those they do not know well.

  • Mouse

    Learn the big words and use the big words or fear their extinction. Should those words continue with a vestigial assignment for the future, then you’ve just helped other people become a little dumber and yourself a little less with the ability to express. That said, you obviously don’t just whack people over the head with a 5-syllable monster, ….just to do it. Or maybe you do ! .. lol….

  • Toddorn

    Brittany, nice try– but no twelve year-old would ever be capable of cogitating statement like that…and the fact that your comment contains so many big/seldom used words…on a blog complaining about the usage of such words, only proves as testament that you’re an internet troll.

  • Man

    Au contraire, Marie

    Having an arsenal of “big” words handy is a very useful compositional tactic. See, I could have written, “knowing big words can be useful when writing”, but, not only does that sound boring, it also lacks the nuance of the original. In the first sentence, my use of the words “arsenal” and “tactic” connote that when I write a post such as this one, I quite literally envision myself going to battle with the likes of you.

    Mary, in a mean ol’ way, talks bad about the different words people can use to talk to each other, if they try to learn a new word everyday. This sort of approach will lead to the death of the English language.

    Or, if you like:

    Mad Mary maliciously maligns the myriad methods of expressing meaning made available to methodical students of the English language, thereby maximizing it’s chances of morbidity.

    Also, if I didn’t need to reference a dictionary to understand the word “pedantic”, does that then mean that you in fact did NOT make your point?

  • Fred

    Man, you’re just a pseudo-intellectual; no one is impressed by your alleged “arsenal” of big words. Anyone can use a thesaurus to find complexed words that are synonyms to simple and common words.

    Never use a five-dollar word where a fifty-cent word will do the job just as well or better.

  • Woj

    What you lack, Fred, is perspicuity. While a thesaurus is certainly a good tool to find words that have similar meanings, it is absolutely imperative that you refrain from using a thesaurus to “find complexed words that are synonyms to simple and common words.” While one might look up the word ‘funny’ in a thesaurus to find different ways to describe your use of the word ‘complexed,’ you will stumble upon words that look good, such as ‘facetious’ and ‘capricious,’ which are not correct in the way which is desired. A thesaurus must always be used to find the correct word, not the word that looks the best. In this case, the word ‘risible’ might be the more apropos selection.

  • Fred

    Oh look, another pseudo-intellectual with a thesaurus propped on his knee.

    You’re trying too hard to come off as a sesquipedalian.

  • Woj

    What you lack Fred, is perspicuity. While a thesaurus is certainly a good tool to find words that have similar meanings, it is absolutely imperative that you refrain from using a thesaurus to “find complexed words that are synonyms to simple and common words.” While one might look up the word ‘funny’ in a thesaurus to find different ways to describe your use of the word ‘complexed,’ you will stumble upon words that look good, such as ‘facetious’ and ‘capricious,’ which are not correct in the way which is desired. A thesaurus must always be used to find the correct word, not the word that looks the best. In this case, the word ‘risible’ might be the more apropos selection.

  • Terry A McNeil

    At times, I receive feedback that the words in a writing are too big. In my view, they are not. A sprinkling of obscure words may exist. That’s it. When I receive such an observation, I will often apply the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test to the text to assess it and improve future writings.

    Funny, normally the writing is graded around the grade five level. This level should be quite appropriate for a general audience. This still creates a number of issues relating to audience, testing, sample size and more. What is fascinating is that geography seems to have a bearing on where most observations originate from. I say no more.

    On the other hand, it is satisfying when University educated readers express enjoyment in reading a paper at the grade five to eight levels. Their minds no doubt are tired. In addition, they more inclined to see the effort that was put into making a complex topic easy to digest. They truly appreciate the effort.

    Seems no matter what we do, in the end you may still end up somewhere between a rock and a hard place.

  • Woj

    I love men.

  • Terry McNeil

    I must apologize this is a second thought Stephen that came on a reread of this post. Missed it the first time. Happens.

    I beg to differ as to the purpose of writing. It is not just to communicate.We should be aware of this and know when to use it and when it is being abused by another.

    Writing style, diction and tone may be have deep rooted economic, political or personal objects. More too. Clever people use writing or speech as a way to restrict the parties who may influence the discourse in an area of concern.

    It is deliberately used to some degree by all professions to protect their economic territory or power. This topic goes far beyond the few sentences I am writing here. In fact, we could no doubt spend years examining this very topic.

    The medium is the message. And nowadays the message is the medium too, i e social networking. I am sorry this area of interest deserves much more discussion but I am short of time. Indeed I believe you could write at least one book on ” The Anthropology of Language and Power” Not today.

    To bring this point home, I rarely read a legal or insurance document where there appears to any real intent to communicate. The language is a device used by power parties to expedite their hidden agendas.

    That’s life these days.

    I am on the run , so I hope these words do set out the points clearly. The molehill may truly be a mountain.

    Thanks for listening

    Terry

    PS a small aside what is Woj trying to say with the gender remark? I am a little pedantic about the smallest points.

  • Woj

    You are a little pedantic? Please don’t talk down to me, woman.

  • Terry McNeil

    Well Woj I will try to be a nice girl from now on and stop writing in my high heels.so we can see eye to eye. Be well my dear.

  • Woj

    What you lack Terry, is perspicuity.

  • Greg

    “Okay, I am 12. Shocker huh? But, I do know that a myriad of people try to use copious amounts of large words without completely understanding the definition of the morpheme. Therefore , amidst using the edict now what the hell you are phrasing.”

    Actually it’s not a shocker at all. What you said makes no sense– you should probably stop stringing together random words.

  • Terry McNeil

    Not any more Woj. I ordered three 16oz bottles online and had them flown in from Peru today. The doctors said it would last a year. Must use the prescribed dosage as too much has lead to rare cases of multi- functional internal doctrines. Of course, this also has serious far-reaching intergalactic implications.

  • Woj

    Terry, you are a fool.

  • Terry McNeil

    Winston Churchill remarked once, “a joke is a serious matter.”
    With that in mind your Worship… “I my rest my case.”

  • Woj

    You’re not making any sense.

  • Woj

    Drugs are bad for you.

  • Woj

    When you take drugs, you lack perspicuity.

  • Woj

    Terry is a whore.

  • Jay M

    While many people misuse words it is important to note that many people do not know enough words. Take for instance people who inappropriately use “who” when “whom” is appropriate (e.g., “According to who?”). Other times pretentious words are utilized that have a similar meaning to their layperson counterpart (e.g., “contusion” for bruise).

    As for accusing people using certain words for not, “being themselves”, they are being themselves, which are people who enjoy using “big” words! Even if a person is a dumb hick it’s important not to appear as one so as to maximize one’s apparent credibility.

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the GRE, GMAT, and other standardizes tests that contain many “big” words.

  • Vanessa

    Wow all you people are LAME! Because you guys are ALL using bigo words! who cares how anybody sounds as long as people know what you’re saying then it’s all good and gravey.

  • Kareem

    Well, I see many of you have posted that using bigger words makes you sound smarter. Actually, it depends on the situation. If I wanted to describe John, I would say he is smart. That is used as a description of who John is, like an aspect of his personality. If I said that John was an intellectual, then I would be describing a characteristic of John.

    It is really hard to explain, so basically, you should just use the word that would sound best, and most fluent. You don’t want to have a sentence like this:

    I am incapable of comprehending the dialects in which were just spoken.
    When all you are getting across is:

    “I don’t understand what you just said.”

    I know it sounds like I’m rambling and I tend to do this a lot, but basically, I would say it’s just preference and fluidity that will alter what and where you insert more intelligent language.

  • gil

    There is something to be admired on a sesquipedalian.

  • Terry McNeil

    There is a sense of decency implied in open and fair talks. I hereby request censorship by the editors of words or phrases that do not adhere to this hallmark of civility.

    “Words resting and applied in the wrong hands are more dangerous to the human condition than any arsenal of weapons ever assembled by man” TIME…the Book, 2011 Copyrighted Material.

  • rastjacks01

    “The more we learn the more acutely we are aware of our ignorance.” Yonkers Middle High School.

  • MartenFerret

    “If you have to go get a dictionary to see what “pedantic” means, I have made my point!”

    Key word being ‘if’; I didn’t require a dictionary to understand ‘pedantic’, neither should anyone advanced passed fourth grade. 🙂

  • Sam Graham

    Yes, using “big words” does make you sound more intelligent while speaking or typing. But for most of the comments above and below, so would a spell-check.

  • chox

    When writing or communicating in general there are literally countless ways to say the same thing. Especially when you include metaphorical and symbolic phrases. It kind of depends on whether you regard a big idea as being more creative useful or intelligent than a big word expressing something mundane. Maths is a good example. Mathematicians try to prove theorems, generally, in the most simple, uncomplicated, direct and obvious way. They are generally quite smart. Good writers aim primarily to express some meaning. Some idea or object by translating the substance of their thought into the words of their chosen language. Using a word, that is so obscure that no-one understands it, that forces the audience to pull out the 10,000 page dictionary to decipher its meaning is in many way similar to speaking another language. Language is in a sense living. Language changes, words come in and out of use. Sounds and meanings are created and morphed everyday. We are exposed to language each in a completely unique way. The best communicator is the one who conveys their message with the greatest rate of success, period. Whether it is with a one syllable word or an eight syllable word is arbitrary. Some big ideas with one syllable. Love, God, child, life, death, war, idea, sex, think, word, write. Every one of those words could be replaced by very large words or by thousands upon thousand of words in the form of novels to explore and fully delineate their meaning. Expression isn’t a competition. A painting isn’t measured simply by it’s surface area.

  • death metal

    Here’s my two cents, anyone who is stupid enough to believe that a few syllables will change my opinion of them, is stupid enough to believe that they do in fact sound smarter. Now any fag with a vendetta and a link to dictionary.com could have stretched that out into a 3000 word essay, but that would have just proven one thing, it would have proven that said author is just tryin a litlle too hard. If you truly are a person of above average reasoning (true intelligence, any moron can memorize any number of facts) then perhaps you would realize that the oxygen wasted is worth far less that the felling you get when you hear a lot of oohs and aahs.

  • venqax

    @death metal: I think you have this backwards. Using the proper word– it doesn’t have to be “big”– actually saves lengthiness. If you have the right word, it saves a sentence or a clumsy paragraph having to explain your intentions.

    “The population was reduced by ten percent”, vs. “the population was decimated”. From 7 words down to 4 if you know “decimated” means reduced by ten percent. “She stood akimbo in the doorway” vs. “She stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips and her arms bowed out”. Wow! That’s 6 instead of 16 if you know that standing with hands on the hips and elbows out like a bow is what “akimbo” means. I actually heard someone describe something as “whitish black”. Is gray a big word, too? Or, even more worisome, does someone who would actually say “whitish black” even know what whitish or black mean? Could be green for all I know. It has more letters than gray does.

    Your fictional person might take 3000 words in their essay instead of 2000 because they don’t know ENOUGH “big words”. And why do you think anyone would be concerned about your opinion of them?

  • marcus

    when you mentioned the word “pedantic” I immediately googled it and then read “If you have to go get a dictionary to see what “pedantic” means, I have made my point!” So your point was definitely made.

  • phill

    Sometimes complex words are needed to accurately articulate and describe in detail what the writer is wanting to convey.

    Can I also point out the writer of this article did not use the word pedantic correctly, it simply does not make sense using that word to describe people whom use “big words” presumbily to make themselves seem clever.

  • Kosh

    I’m an ESL leaner, and a bit foolish I think. I used to look up the Xxx-English dictionary to find the word I think I needed, because I thought “small” word is not precise. of course that made a lot of jokes.

  • xixihaha567

    Do not quit blogging. Its nice to read such a nice post.

  • justice

    Woj, shame on your language! Using the word nigger show what lack of not only intelligence but your lack of respect for others – shame on you. We blog, we fight, we disrepect, each other and yet we Americans claim to be the best. We are such hypocrites! Grow up people and act like your parents taught you something!!!

  • Jini

    Honestly speaking, I speak couple different languages and English is not my first tongue, I have got a causing of mine who speaks couple languages and is well educated as well. I do hate when we are having a conversation and he winds up using big words, why bother when you can use simple words. I do applause if you use big words when writing a letter or a book but still to me writing in a simple way is the best.

  • John

    Hmm, I agree as well. Shallow and pedantic.

  • Roland

    this is the first time of me being on this site an I started reading all of it I understand most of it in my mine but the words that you guy’s used on this sit its just wow:) but ok my name is Roland J beland an I been writing a book about my daily life evey day of my life an my pass but sometime when I write I use the same later all the time . an for me its hard to learn new one’s when you have to deal with darma avery day of my life an when I go to sleep. but I don’t understand how can I learn new words in my daily life with out having any darma . my brine can’t take it any more of it an I don’t want to be one dumd men in this world today. so I am just asking can someone on this earth to give me the right works so I can get this book done. an I been writing for like 1year an 4moths an its all bye hand. I hope you guy’s understand my tpying on this site just help me out if you can :):):)

  • Al

    The problem ain’t people who use big werds to sound smart, it’s people who use one syllable words and blunt, subject-verb-object sentences to show everyone how ‘hard-core’ and ‘authentic’ they are. Buy a dictionary, Bukowski. Read a real book, one without pictures. Face it. You can’t stay twelve years old forever.

  • Okello

    Don’t let others rent space in your mind.

  • David

    “Key word being ‘if’; I didn’t require a dictionary to understand ‘pedantic’, neither should anyone advanced passed fourth grade.”

    MartenFerret, this is a pretty ignorant thing to say. I guarantee you that most people would be unable to define the word pedantic.

  • jonathan

    What’s wrong with you people, is English the only language in the world, that we should be cautious in writing or speaking?

    Tell me, if speaking in english makes you intellectual, then think of this: “Why Americans are always searching for a Miss Universe”?

    Can other galaxy send their representatives on earth? or maybe it is more appropriate to ask “are there any delegates coming from other galaxies”?

    In that case, Americans need an Alien interpreter.

    Sorry for my english I am not an American. But my point is, can you Americans speak and understand my native language fluently?

    Why you are laughing to that chinese speaking in english? In my opinion, it is not about the “language” but already about the “racist” here.

    It is too arrogant for you to say that having a better english vocabulary can make you intellectual…because there are many many intelligent men around the world dont even know how to speak english.

  • It is down to you

    What is strange is that I was using the word pedantic without any formal qualifications. I am sorry but I love big creative words, when I write I can really go into one, however, I do not speak these words in my daily life. For an adult like me without any formal qualifications it really is a buzz to adapt to words that a person like me should not have any concept about. The English language is a broad continuum of words, use it, do not abuse it and for me abusing it is neglecting to exploit what man has been manipulating and formulating for centuries. The English language is at the tip of our tongue or in my case our fingertips begging us to exploit every ounce of it. I think the original blogger has been confused by those who try to use the English language in a patronising manner and forgot about those who truly love words and the play of words genuinely and want to use elaborate words in a friendly manner for their own personal growth.

  • G

    To Johnathan

    I am half chinese and half white. That being said It really annoys me how defensive chinese people tend to be. I understand both cultures to a certain degree, but why are you so annoyed? Just because someone was laughing at someone who happen to be Chinese, does that necesarily mean that they were being rascist? The coment that you said that about was laughing at them for thinking it was socially impressive to only know only English. Does that not sound a little… funny i guess for lack of a better word. People from China tend to be more easily offended by things in a negative sort commentation about anything relating to their country. Keep in mind we are in ‘merica, not China. There is no censorship, only freedom of speach.

    Im just kidding i just like to argue

  • G

    also the article is about “sounding smart” not “being smart”

  • Jonathan

    To Mr. G,

    “Sounding Smart” (if not “Being Smart”) means “Prentending to be Smart”?

    That’s too pathetic right?

    FYI, I am not a Chinese… and yes it was very annoying. So what, if that Chinese knows only english? believe it or not in my country you can also find people do not know how to speak our native language but only english.

    However, it seems you did not get my point and I don’t know why… maybe you only want to argue because you only want to be “sound smart”..like the way I defined it. LOL!

    Just kidding too.

  • Clare

    I agree with this article, and yet I also agree with allison on the last thing she said, “Then agen i also agree with some of the comments above, if you dont use words that people cant understand then they wont ever learn the meaning of them and stick to the restricted vocabulary that they have.”
    I’m sick of all the same words being used over and over again throughout society. I’m sick of terms like ‘awesome’ and ‘epic’ getting use to comment on a pencil. If something is ‘awesome’, you fall to your knees, lost in a state of ‘awe’. If something is ‘epic,’ it’s heroic, or even just a story.
    Then, there’s texting. That’s going to the extreme, and I’m fairly certain nobody actually writes storys with it, but if I’m ever on Facebook and someone from school chats to me, it’s always ‘hi’, ‘lol’, ‘jk’, ‘omg’ and ‘ttyl’. I remember once a friend said ‘lol’, and I typed, “Did you really laugh out loud?”. Three minutes later, he typed “no”.
    At any rate, back to my first paragraph, I agree that it’s bad to make yourself look smart(especially if you can’t understand the words), and yet, it’s also bad to stick to the short and simple. If you can’t understand a word, ask, or even look it up. I just found out what ‘sentient’ means this morning, and I’m already 15. I should learned that awhile back. No shame in asking the meaning of ‘arbitrarily’ or ‘albuminurophobia’. 🙂

  • Jonathan

    If you are only using the “big words” in writing, that’s fine. Because there’s a chance for your readers to look up the word they dont understand.

    However, if you are speaking in public or in the business meeting or presentation, using big words is not good, because not all your listeners can understand what you mean to say. Unless, you will inform your listeners in advance to bring dictionary with them, and you have to pause for each “big words” to enable them to look up in the dictionary. I am very sure that you are just wasting your time and you might lose all your customers as well. 🙂

    Finally, using big words just to “sound smart” (not being smart according to Mr. G) will just embarass you when you encounter a person who is “really smart”.

    Hope you understand my point.

  • Wilson

    Some of you people left some awful, spiteful remarks. If you don’t want to learn grammar, get off of this site. I actually like learning. If you don’t, you don’t have to.

  • Somniferous

    Big Words…Smartness:
    True many try to adventurously inject complex words, on occasion counter to the intended messages.
    There’s an equally strong fallacy here though; different people’s mind are structured differently….some artistic…others highly logic….others sentimental in nature etc….and therefore may use language differently.
    Many people look down upon people who r inclined to complex language subcousciously-as though those ‘verbose’ people were trying to ‘look down’ upon the audience.
    I get that accusation on many occasions even though my language use is really not something I ‘enforce upon others’ deliberately-that’s simply how my mind projects out what I’ve seen or experienced…
    When u come across an exceptional artist then start telling him…”well ur trying to be like Da Vinci but U never will!”…Sounds almost senseless….that’s the feeling I get by analogy.

  • Woj

    Thank you Somniferous for your wonderful contribution to this discussion.

  • jonathan

    @Wilson

    In my understanding, this site isn’t talk about grammar, is it?

  • jonathan

    Sorry, I mean this article.

  • Marissa

    Yes, a rich vocabulary is often an indicator of higher intelligenc, or at least a greater ability to express oneself more precisely and eloquently. Most “big words” exist because at least SOMEBODY found them useful at some point, yes?

    Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand that you can’t fake being smart. Awkwardly placed “big words” amidst equally lackluster grammatical structures are just painful to read. Good writing is that in which the reader can forget about/enjoy the writing itself and focus on the content. Like how when you read a book, you don’t pay attention to the paper or the binding unless it causes a problem, e.g. pages fall out.

    You’d be surprised what passes for a “big word” nowadays. I always am. And people go to memorize vocab words by repeating the definition in their vocab book, but they don’t learn the nuances that allow them to actually implement their new vocabulary. Which irks me tremendously. The only way to REALLY learn vocabulary is to READ. A lot. And a basic understanding of Latin roots can be quite helpful, at least for English

    Just my rambling opinions.

    I’m 16, are you surprised? Probably not.

  • Tiffany

    hey jessie thats a good point I think I’ll use more bigger words so my aunt will stop bugging me all the time unfortunately I have to live with her everything she talks to me about is DETRIMENTAL…

  • Woj

    “I’m 16, are you surprised? Probably not.”

    Not really. You were obviously a kid who was trying too hard to to come off as an intellectual and articulate individual.

  • Stephen Thorn

    @Marissa: I agreed with your post of Jan. 7, 2012. Sometimes a particular “big” word is the best choice. Of course one may describe a mountain as “big” or “tall” and get the point across, but so many other words (ex. huge, immense, insurmountable, sky-reaching, gargantuan, or Olympian [as in Mount Olympus, and no, I didn’t need to grab a thesaurus to find any of those words — just pulled ’em out of my memory]) convey a better image and meaning.

    The analogy you used about a book falling apart was good and apt. Yes, a “big” word in the midst of a pile of basic grade-school-level writing stands out like a black beetle in a plate of white rice…and in a similarly unpleasant way.

    I also agreed with you about the state of modern language. I see English being dumbed-down and neutered all the time and it makes me sad, as well as apprehensive for the future of written literature. The fact that you, at a so-youthful 16, see this also gives me some hope for that future.

  • Stephen Thorn

    @Marissa: Also, can you tell me the size of your tits?

  • Dilan

    Well, i guess you guys are my mentors, honestly, i dont know alot of big words but like wise, i realy concur with those who think using a dictionary is beneficial to our capricious society because what are they for if we cant use and apply them?…you guys are super intelletuals and fastidious when it comes to the use of big words.

  • Dilan

    If theres a word which has become common in my country zambia is “ironic” …in what way should this word be used? because it realy sounds insidious and dubeous when people use it…most of the high school friends i had, called me a philosopher over simple words like “ecstatic, thrill, prepostorious, interminable,alacrity obnoxious, cordial “and many more common words which they called big words. Likewise, i might sound sarcastic and monotonous but i think there can never be a thrilling dictionary without big words…

  • Dilan

    Thanx woj, what can i say when am not good in english,but who knows knows maybe i will also learn. meanwhile, i was just trying to convey my opinion but i thank God for the way he has created me…likewise, may God bless you Woj.

  • Dilan

    Thanks for your generosity woj, i guess i will have to stick to your advice…

  • Dilan

    I live in a christian nations and moreover i dont believe in insults …Change for the better woj because you never know what tomorrow holds…be wise my friend because HELL is there for people like you..you fool…

  • Woj

    Dilan is the spawn of apes

  • Woj

    Dilan likes kool-aid and wings.

  • Woj

    Dilan eats his own shit.

  • Woj

    Dilan would trade his children for a piece of fried chicken.

  • Woj

    Dilan, I always thought trailer trash couldn’t afford internet, how do you?

  • Dilan

    Thanxs, wat can i say? with such ridiculous comments, i would advice you to see a psychiatrist for own benefit…you realy suck, you know what, u dont feed me and neither do u pay my rentals, and about the internet u fool, life has changed and by the way man is no longer judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character…. U are destroying the image for the posterity of your country…i wont blame you but i will blame the father of your children to be…

  • Woj

    Dilan, you can’t speak English so stop trying. I can barely understand what your dumb niggger-ass is trying to say.

  • Dilan

    Woj, have you taken leave of your senses? Because you sound like bats in the belfery, you are undoubtedly getting on my last nerve… Likewise, better flatter a fool than fight him, this page is not an institution of insults, anyway, i guess a leopard cannot change its spots, you are no great shakes… Lets leave this page for an erudite companion, let not our insults turn into a threat for those who wish like commenting.. And my apolodge to everyone. Please forgive me for my errors, may the good Lord bless you in as much as you take a bookish view of life.. Meanwhile, forgive me Woj… (RATED NO REPLY).

  • Woj

    Fuck you Dilan. I did write a big response up for you, but the fucking cock sucking admins deleted it for some reason. Fuck you admins, you fucking nigger lovers. I’d type it up again, but you know what? You’re not worth it, you filthy nigger.

  • Georgina

    Going back to the topic. I am an Interagency Program Manager who is required to communicate with the cities and counties within Arizona everyday. Even with a master’s degree, most people communicate at a level that others understand. Prime examples are emergency management, homeland security, military, and law enforcement use terminology and acronyms which are universal throughout their field, however, when they need to communicate with the public, they must alter their frame of thinking and communicate in a way that the general public can understand the message. You need to be able to communicate, big words not common to the general population hinder effective communications.

    Just because one knows what big words mean, does not mean they should use them. They look great on paper and may make you look intelligent, but if the reader needs to look up a big word in every sentence, then the message you are trying to convey, will be lost. you ever wonder why newspapers avoid the use of big words? it’s because they want people to read the material, not throw it in the trash.

    Using big words in conversation is more complicated than in writing because the audience doesn’t carry around an instant dictionary. Really, how smart do you think big words make you sound, you won’t get paid any more money and in-fact, people will avoid working with you altogether if effective communication fails, think about it. Ever notice that the president of the United States and heads of government speak in terms that are digestible? Watch political debates or televised government meetings, big words are few, far and in between.

    Right now, there is a fellow student in my class who uses a big word in almost every sentence. I avoid responding to his posted forums. He was writing a letter to FEMA. If I was FEMA, I would have pushed his letter to the side because he failed to communicate in a way that grasp my attention to the subject at hand. Instead, I would have to spend the next 20 minutes looking up 23 words pulled out of a three paragraph letter. Which I just did before posting this comment, and I’m far from being a dummy. I write state policies and procedures for a living.

    V/R

  • Woj

    Fucking Georgina, shut the fuck up. You think anyone in their right mind will want to read that fucking useless wall of text you posted??? Fuck you whore bitch.

  • Dilan

    Like your post Georgina, magnificent comment…

  • Woj

    Fuck off Dilan, you’re not allowed you speak…you fucking dumbass nigger piece of trash!!

  • Dilan

    “you’re not allowed you speak….” whats the meaning of that? I thought you are bookish and am the dumb one… What type of error is that…? Obnoxious Woj error…?

  • Woj

    Dilan, my fucking retarded friend…that is called a typo. (It happens to the best of us.) And the only error here, Dilan, is your existence. You’re a fucking worthless waste of organic flesh. Dumbass nigger trash.

  • Woj

    I wish they’d ban monkeys like Dilan from using the internet.

  • Craig

    I agree that a good vocabulary is necessary, and I think everyone should be well rounded and affluent in their own language. But the laughable thing I see when I read certain things, such as comments on a science blog etc., is that people tend to use words that they probably had to look up in a dictionary while writing it, just to try to sound intelligent. I usually see right through it and see that the writer is over-compensating for a lack of a good vocabulary, which doesn’t necessarily mean you are any less intelligent, I regress. I think you should just write about what you want, and how you want, and try to learn how to write better by taking a class or (stay with me here) actually going to college and getting your full potential.
    Anyway, sorry for the rant, I guess it’s just a pet peeve of mine to see people trying too hard and not being themselves.

    Also, Dilan, you need to grow up; you’re acting like a brat.

  • Dilan

    Likewise Craig and thanks…

  • Woj

    Dilan is a fucking faggot ass nigger bitch. Hey Dilan, you are a fucking shit-slinging monkey. It’s amazing you can even type, you dumbass ape.

  • Dilan

    Likewise…..

  • Woj

    Fuck you nigger.

  • Woj

    Dilan, have you taken leave of your senses? Because you sound like nigger bats in the belfery, you are undoubtedly getting on my last nerve… Likewise, better flatter a stupid nigger than fight him, this page is not an institution of your nigger-speak, anyway, i guess a nigger cannot change its skin color, you are no great shakes… Lets leave this page for a civilized companion, let not your stupid nigger ass deter those who wish to comment. And I apologize to everyone for Dilan the nigger. Please forgive that monkey for his errors, may the good Lord bless you in as much as you take a bookish view of life.. Meanwhile, try and forgive yourself, Dilan.… (RATED NO REPLY).

  • That uni student

    I agree vocabulary is fun and needed but going too far as to make the sentences not make sense at all is going too far. Such words as “detrimental” do teach the audience to use such words and educates people. But when reading something the words have to fit in otherwise it has the opposite effect

  • Woj

    Shut the fuck up faggot.

  • JEH

    One important point, especially when the form of communication applies to a larger audience, that I haven’t seen mentioned:

    Sometimes the speaker or writer intends to communicate to only a subset of those listening. As a stark example, a dentist may tell his staff to go get some articaine. He has effectively communicated his need to the desired target without the patient freaking out by his use of the word “shot” or “injection.”

    Different, yet ostensibly synonymous, words also have different connotations and emotion reactions. The use of each the one is often intentional. To stick with the above example, dentists are trained to use the word discomfort instead of pain. This diction is not so they may sound smarter, but rather to prevent an increase in patient anxiety. “Discomfort” generates much less emotional reaction or fear and nearly all patients will still understand the message.

    Last, sometimes the speaker/writer intentionally only wants to help the portion of his audience that is willing to put some effort forth. Hence, they may embed some “5 dollar words” as a price of admission for the recipient to benefit from the communication. Similarly, our dentist friend may use a word during an interview of a prospective employee such that the applicants response will either demonstrate their current dental knowledge level and/or their willingness to learn by asking for clarification if the do not know the word.

    In conclusion, a sesquipedalian’s intentions may be good/bad or intentional/unintended. One can entertain themselves with trying to make those assessments when they encounter a perceived superfluous word. However, the point could be made that there is more to learn about yourself by assessing your willingness to participate in the conversation by asking for clarification or by investing the time and effort to look up the word. Ultimately, you either perceive value in what the person is trying to communicate or you do not, and that says a lot about both parties involved.

  • Woj

    JEH, fuck you, you stupid fucking bitch. Let this fucking piece of shit article die already you stupid fucker.

  • Outcast

    I find it extremely unfortunate that, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there exists no online community or forum for individuals with advanced/large vocabularies. It would prove a wonderful place to exchange dialogue and colloquy with people of outstanding to superlative vocabulary level, and to usufruct our panoply of lexicon without unintentionally abashing or derogating those with average vocabulary size. It could be an oasis to disemcumber ourselves from societal prepossessions and conventions which discourage sequipedalianism or usage of low-frequency terms. Also, it could be a hot-spot to practice high-end vocabulary and its germane/apropos application by reading and composing in such. We would learn new words from others, and be admonished when not utilizing a specific term correctly.

    🙂

  • bee

    I like your article and I couldn’t agree more. I just read an answer to a question on a forum that stated, “It has been shown that these students matriculate well in college.” Meaning that the student is successful in college. Matriculate means the act of enrolling only. So everyone matriculates well! lol.

  • Bort

    Labeling one as pedantic due to the breadth of their vocabulary? I’d characterize that as less a valid criticism and more an ad hominem. Isn’t it some what hypocritical to demean someone for being learned? Which is what a strong personal lexicon would be demonstrative of?

  • Woj

    Outcast, well done…you have proved to us that you are capable of using dictionary.com

    Bee, you’re an annoying bitch.

    Bort, you’re a faggot ass.

  • Woj

    FUCK YOU CUNT!

  • Woj

    FUCK THIS SHIT!

  • Woj

    You’re all a bunch of faggot-fuck-tards.

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