Word to Your Mother

amy mac writing tip # 2
It's a busy time of year. Time is at a premium. Let's get right to it:

Amy Mac's Wonderful World of Writing Well Rule # 2:

Don't use big, fancy words when simple, plain words will do.

When writing, aim for a sixth grade reading level. Even if you are writing for a well-educated audience, stick with small, plain words. Why?

Readers trip over long words, even when they know the definition. Bigger isn’t always better, and using a protracted word often breaks up the flow of writing.

See, didn’t you think “Protracted? Seriously?”

The sentence works just as well with “lengthy.” Don’t give your reader an excuse to stop reading by using a hefty word in a (transparent) display of your vocabulary chops.

William Strunk Jr. & E.B White, in their famous writing style manual Elements of Style, say it best:

“Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.”

And that, my friends, is the last declaration, utterance, remark.

Or word.

PS - Ten points to anyone who can identify where "Word to Your Mother" comes from.


Nealy said...

ICE, ICE BABY!! (I believe that I have good reason to use not just one, but multiple exclamation marks.)

Amy Blair said...

I also like this definition from the very reliable source, urbandictionary.com:

Originally "word to the mother." Used by African Americans as a salutation. It means "Give due respect to the motherland from which we came." Can be used in the same context as "Keep it real." or, also, can be used to literally express respect to the motherland and African-American customs and traditions.
Man 1: I'll be seeing you man. Keep it real.
Man 2: Word to the mother.
Man 1: Word.

Amy Mac said...

Neals, I appreciate that you not only know your Vanilla Ice (even though you were only four when the song was popular), but have also proven you read the most recent Writing Well post. Word.

And Amy, I cannot even describe how pleased I am that a Lambuth-educated girl has utilized urbandictionary.com to find the phrase "express respect to the motherland." Keep it real.


Anonymous said...

Hi Amy!
Here are some of my favorites blogs for you to check out. They are a mixture of design ideas, "not so crafty" crafts, creative parties, and baking! Enjoy! -Kel

www.betsywhite.com (Flights of Fancy)
www.hostessblog.com (Hostess with the mostess)

mary elizabeth said...

Word UP.