The Voracious Learner website seems like the perfect place for a Word of the Day vocabulary widget, right?
Let’s learn! Let’s boost our vocabularies! We can learn some big words to drop into sentences and impress everyone.
Except, no. That’s exactly what I don’t want you to do with my widget. In fact, I’d rather you ignore it completely than start drizzling your conversations with multisyllabic words that sound really, really smart but confound your listener.
I love learning and I love learning new words. And I really hope you come back often and have fun with learning a few new words too. Words are pretty damn cool. They’re filled with logic, history, culture, and geography.
But learning new words isn’t the best way to being a better communicator. In fact, sometimes it can do the opposite.
Words are a tool that we use to make our communication better. But, learning more words isn’t a shortcut to improved communication.
And that’s why I’m including this disclosure. Please, use my Word of the Day widget responsibly. I’ll even add a disclaimer warning to that: Here are words you probably shouldn’t use! They’ll mess up your writing more than anything.
Big Words Generally Don’t Impress, They Confuse
You’re in a meeting or a one-on-one conversation with a work colleague and you drop some extra-fancy language. Your listener’s reaction might not be what you’d expect. They might not take a higher view of your intellect or leadership. Instead, they’ll either stress that they don’t know what you’re talking about or they’ll begin tuning you out. Yep, too many big words can put your audience into snooze mode. And that’s likely the better outcome.
The mistake of using too many fancy words makes us seem like pretentious (choose your favorite expletive) and the majority of times, it clouds communication.
Let’s be honest, on many occasions, using big words isn’t about being smart, but intellectually lazy. Why? Because it takes more time, energy, and brain power to form your idea and then present in it a way that’s digestible to your audience. I’m not arguing your audience generally needs things dumbed down. But you need to be respective of their time and attention span. Taking the extra step to refine your message into something clear and concise is communication gold. That process makes the transmission of ideas and information the priority — not your ego.
As with verbal communication, the same holds true for written words as well. Here, it’s even easier though. Now, there’s software designed to pare down your writing. The Hemingway Editor for instance will help you to write more muscular text in the spirit of Papa Hemingway himself. It highlights things like passive phrasing, when a simpler/stronger word could be used, and when you’re using too many adverbs. Not only will this help your writing, but it also aids you in being more cognizant of your language. And this will trickle down into your verbal communication as well.
5 Tips for Being a Better Communicator
- Use the shortest word for the job.
- Avoid jargon words and catchphrases. Ask yourself if you’re using a word because it makes you sound cool amongst your peers or because you’ve heard colleagues using the word or phrase.
- Remember to keep disseminating information at the heart of your language choice, rather than using words to impress others.
- Focus on verbs and less on adverbs in your writing (like Hemingway would want).
Have fun with the Word of the Day widget, just remember. Use at your own risk.