Take my thesaurus...please
There's something to be said for the perfect word. Most writing simply doesn't stand out, and the perfect word does stand out. In a world where most things are simply good, the perfect word is superb, exceptional, marvelous and wonderful. So every writer should labor over every word to choose the perfect one, right?
Not so fast--there are plenty of good reasons not to use the perfect word. In fact, you might want to handle your thesaurus rarely and carefully, because the perfect word might keep you from connecting with your audience--here's why:
- Your audience may not understand your language: Your readers may understand that a magnanimous person is better than just a good person, but, then again, they may not. The perfect word loses its appeal if your readers have to open a separate tab on their computers to look up the meaning of the perfect word. It's extremely distracting to stop reading and start hunting for the meaning of a word that could have been expressed in a simpler way. In some cases, your mission to include as many perfect words as possible in your writing will anger your readers as they constantly try to decipher what you've written. Unfortunately, in many cases, you'll simply lose your readers as they give up and turn their attention to something much easier to read.
One of the most important things I've ever learned in writing is to never assume the reading ability of your audience. They may all be tenured professors or may all be factory workers. The former group may understand the perfect word, but both groups will surely understand the simpler word.
- Your audience may not speak your language: Our communications, just like our business, are no longer on a regional or a national level, but a global level. Whether you realize it or not, your language is constantly being translated into different languages and dialects. American writers are commonly mistaken to assume readers from all around the world understand English just as well as the authors. Some readers understand English on a basic level; some may not understand it at all and rely on translating software to decipher words written in English (and translating software is limited in ability and inconsistent in effectiveness).
Always keep in mind that your reader may not understand your language, and it is better to rely on simpler words that are easily understo