Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Effective Words

It is not a simple thing to learn how to use words to say exactly what one wants to say in the most effective way possible. But the words themselves should be simple. Here is some of the best writing advice I have come across. The first two were written by Canadians, the third by an Englishman and the fourth by an American.

In all ages pompous people use a pompous language, half-educated people an over-educated speech, and people of small intellect run to words a size too large.
Stephen Leacock, How to Write, © 1944

Too many writers have the habit of purchasing, utilizing, requiring when they need, acquiring when they get — all the time. The simpler word seems inadequate. This is an illusion. Use the simplest, most everyday words you can. . . . One way to put it into practice is to imagine that instead of putting words on paper. . . you’re talking to someone you know. If you can work that way, you’ll be bugged a little less by the inclination to lapse into bigger words than you need.
Bill Cameron, A Way With Words © 1979

It need hardly be said that shortness is a merit in words. There are often reasons why shortness is not possible; much less often there are occasions when length, not shortness, is desirable. But it is a general truth that the short words are not only handier to use, but more powerful in effect; extra syllables reduce, not increase, vigour.
H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, © 1965

If you have any doubt of what a word means, look it up. Learn its etymology and notice what curious branches its original root has put forth. See if it has any other meanings that you didn’t know it had. Master the small gradations between words that seem to be synonyms. What is the difference between “cajole,” “wheedle,” “blandish” and “coax”?
William Zinsser, On Writing Well, © 1976

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