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!

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

  • Blake de Raat

    When you say to not use big words, people should not go around using simple vocabulary that makes you look babyish or stupid.

    It really means that you should not use a big word for the sake of it – use the word that fits the context.

    And yes, perhaps a long word may actually fit the context (in which case you would use); however, this word has been chosen for a purpose, to deliver the most precise meaning possible.

    Therefore, to communicate effectively, you need to make a discerning selection of words (i.e. well-chosen vocabulary) to communicate your point.

  • Woj

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

  • Woj


  • Woj


  • Woj

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

    Bee, you’re an annoying bitch.

    Bort, you’re a faggot ass.

  • 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?

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