On the Use of Long Words

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about precision and conciseness in my writing. “What will be the best word to convey that meaning in as little space as possible?” Rather than using multiple vague words to describe something, I’d rather use one or two very precise words. But what does this mean for my style? It means I am now developing a tendency for using long, and/or somewhat obscure words that not everyone is familiar with. While making my writing more concise and (I think) more beautiful, this also has the effect of making it harder to understand and connect to for many people.


What I’ve been wondering is: should I care if my writing is harder to understand and connect to? I want to use the English language to its fullest potential, which, to me, means using long and elaborate words in order to precisely describe specific sensations and images. The trick is learning to do that without coming off as stuffy or overly remote. But then, it strikes me as sad that using long words even carries connotations of stuffiness and remoteness. When did speaking beautifully become scorned? When did people start to regard those with an excellent command of the vernacular with suspicion, as distant academics? It’s a bit bothersome. I suppose I shall have to count on being earnest and truthful to countermand the potentially stuffy first impression that my long words may give to my work.


At any rate, that’s just how I feel for my own writing. In general, there seems to be two chief stances on this issue: there is the group which believes a writer ought to use plain language, no flowery descriptions, no long words, only things spoken in day-to-day life; and then there is the group which strives for artistic writing, detailed stuff, words so beautiful they almost overshadow the meaning of the text as a whole. It strikes me that both groups are wrong, and it would be better to return to an older standard of looking at things, wherein both the plain meaning of the text and its artistic beauty were emphasized equally.


Because, you know, anti-modernism and all that.


Which writing style do you tend to prefer in your works, if you write…?


~ Jared


2 thoughts on “On the Use of Long Words

  1. In my writing, I strive to create a convincing environment for the reader to inhabit for a short time. Sometimes that means plain language, sometimes longer words. Depends on the situation, I think. I don’t find myself using predominantly one or the other.

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