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Jewish World Review
June 24, 2008
/ 21 Sivan 5768
The Power Of Short Words
I'm careful of the words I choose.
I like them short and sweet.
Because I cannot ever know
Which ones I'll have to eat.
Contrary to what some people seem to believe, simple writing is not the
product of simple minds. Asimple, unpretentious style has both grace and power.
By not calling attention to itself, it allows the reader to focus on the message.
Good writers are not afraid to use short, everyday words. They know it's
possible to write clearly, convincingly and even powerfully with short words.
An item titled "The Long and Short of It," from the Members' Handbook of
SPELL the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature
"You don't have to use long words when you write. Most of the time, you
can make your points quite well with short ones. In fact, big words may get in
the way of what you want to say. And what's more, when you write with short
words, no one will need to look them up to learn what they mean.
"Short words can make us feel good. They can run and jump and dance and
soar high in the clouds. They can kill the chill of a cold night and help us keep
cool on a hot day. They fill our hearts with joy, but they can bring tears to our
eyes, too. A short word can be soft or strong. It can sting like a bee or sing like
a lark. Small words of love can move us, charm us, lull us to sleep. Short words
give us light and hope and peace and love and health and a lot more good things.
A small word can be as sweet as the taste of a ripe pear, or tart like plum jam.
Small words help us to think. They are, in truth, the heart and the soul of clear
"When you write, choose the short word if you can find one that will let
you say what you want to say. If there is no short one that fills the bill, then
go ahead and consider the utilization of a sesquipedalian expression as a viable
alternative, but be cognizant of the actuality that it could conceivably be
incumbent upon many of your perusers to expend, by consulting a dictionary
or perhaps an alternate lexicon of particularized patois, copious quantities of
their invaluable time in attempting to determine the message you are endeavoring
to impart to them through the instrumentality of your missive."
Note that until the word ahead, all the words are cobbled from a single syllable.
Now that we're polysyllabically positioned, let's bloviate loquaciously
with this classic hippopotamomonstrosesquipedalian statement:
"In promulgating your esoteric cogitations or articulating your super
sentimentalities and amicable, philosophical, or psychological observations,
beware of platitudinous ponderosity.
"Let your conversation and communications possess a clarified conciseness,
a compact comprehensibility, a coalescent consistency, and a concatenated
"Eschew all conglomerations of flatulant, bloviated vapidity, jejune babblement
and asinine affectations.
"Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations
possess intelligibility and veracious vivacity, without rodomontade or thrasonical
bombast. Sedulously eschew all polysyllabic profundity, pompous
prolixity, sebaceous vacuity, ventriloquial verbosity and grandiloquent
That is, talk and write in short words.
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JWR contributor Richard Lederer is a language maven. More than a million of his books, which have been Book-of-the-Month Club and Literary Guild alternate selections, are in print. His latest work is Presidential Trivia: The Feats, Fates, Families, Foibles, and Firsts of Our American Presidents
© 2008, Richard Lederer