Friday, 9 May 2014

It Doesn’t Make You Look Smart

It seems there is a lot of people (hipsters) around today who love using long or unusual words to make themselves sound intelligent. Many of these people have started to wear beards, which is a bit weird.

Contemporaneously. I just spotted this one being used in a Wikipedia article. If I had to guess, I would say it means something about contemporary something or other.

During the same period of time; "contemporaneously, or possibly a little later, there developed a great Sumerian civilisation"

When I looked up the definition on Google I got a single definition, which is unusual to say the least. The purpose of language is to communicate - it is completely pointless if you have to look up words to know their meaning.

There is a rule that many good writers use: Prefer the Anglo-Saxon word. It is a myth that short sharp words such as cup, creek, shit, fuck, cunt, originated from when the Anglo-Saxons ruled England. Just because a rule is historically inaccurate, it can still have value. The idea is to try to communicate with short words and short sentences. Short paragraphs help too. It is far more likely that people will actually be able to read what you are writing.

Now I have quite a large vocabulary and I know a lot of long words. I tend to use a lot of long words when I am writing. When I am finished, I read it over again and erase as many of these words as I can. I eliminate really long sentences and reorder the words in others. I remove double negatives and exterminate adverbs.

I harbour a special hatred of adverbs. You know those horrible words that add "special" extra meaning to words. She walked slowly. She said contemptuously. The problem is they add needless complexity to a sentence and break another rule: Show don’t tell. For example: the word contemptuously, when you are incredibly angry with somebody you feel contempt for them. You may scream, shout – spray.

"You are an arsehole", she sprayed.

This gives you a better impression of what is going on, rather than trying to read some long stupid word. Using adverbs does not impress anybody. The only thing it demonstrates is laziness and lack of imagination. You can almost always remove them and it will almost always improve the sentence - unless you are deliberately trying to be a dick.

So hipsters, please stop using needlessly complex language and long words. You are not impressing anybody with your words and your beards. You do know that the Taliban force all males to grow beards?

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