Update: After thirty minutes exploring this topic, I realized I had gaps in my reasoning. I don’t stand by this post anymore. But I’ve left my draft up for the curious.
There’s a usual reason big words cramp your writing:
Big words make your writing hard to read. If your reader has to stop to remember what the word means, or worse, look it up, you’ve taken away from the flow of your writing. You should make your writing easy to read for your reader.
But let’s leave that aside. Let’s say, your reader is a superhuman that knows every word ever spoken in the English language.
This superhuman can still stumble on your writing. Why? Because big words lead you to favor a noun style over verb style in your writing.
Writing can either be dominated by nouns or verbs.
Here’s a verb style sentence:
I came. I saw. I conquered.
Here’s that in noun style:
Arrival; Reconnaissance; Victory.
The verb style sentence sounds stronger, clearer, and just better. Most writers need to bias towards more verby sentences in their writing.
This makes sense, and the Internet supports this.
Now, I’m going to add to the conversation, and please, let me know if I’m making a false assumption.
Now, I believe many of the “big words” people know are nouns or adjectives.
I know, this might be debatable. But entertain me for a moment.
In recent posts, I wanted to use some big words: gravitas and untenable. A noun and an adjective.
Sentences with a noun like gravitas:
Eric had gravitas.
Classic noun style. With a “to be” verb. Not good to use a noun in this way.
Eric carried himself with gravitas.
Prepositional phrases are OK in moderation. But in excess, they obscure the subject and verb in a sentence. Update: Writing this, I realized I was so lost.
Now, it probably doesn’t surprise you more nouns would lead to noun style. But what about adjectives?
An adjective like untenable would lead to a sentence like:
This premise is untenable.
Classic noun style! With a conjugation of “to be”. It would read much better as:
You can’t support that premise.
I know I just showed two small examples, which don’t prove my statements in general. Did I just pick and choose these examples? Maybe.
But, in any case. I hope, when you’re editing and you see a big word in your writing, you don’t just ask yourself, is this word confusing my readers.
You ask, does this word causing noun style writing?