Big Words

I used to work with a guy who liked to use big words. One of his favorites was “pulchritude.” It means “physical beauty,” which is certainly a nice thing to have or to behold. But it sounds like it means something else. A foul smell, maybe, or a state of physical decay. Imagine seeing that word for the first time. If you think it describes something bad, you can’t possibly understand what the author meant to say.

“Notoriety” is a different kind of word. It’s used interchangeably with “fame,” but it shouldn’t be. If you have notoriety, you’re notorious. You don’t become notorious for doing the right thing. You probably want to achieve some level of fame in your chosen pursuit – we all do. But we don’t want that subset of fame we call notoriety.

What happens when you use words like these in your own communications, in your emails, blog posts, articles, and books? Part of the audience will misunderstand your message, because you’ve used words that don’t mean what most people think they mean. And part of the audience will dismiss you because you’ve used a word in a way that suggests you don’t know its actual definition.

Between those extremes is language that conveys exactly what you mean to say, that can’t be misinterpreted.

Think of one of the most famous declarations of the twentieth century, delivered by President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Complex thoughts can be expressed with simple words. And simple thoughts can be expressed with words that make them seem profound, if not magical. But nothing worth saying can be expressed with words you or your intended readers don’t understand.

Lou Schuler, C.S.C.S., is a journalist and author or coauthor of many popular books about strength training and nutrition, including, most recently, The New Rules of Lifting for Abs with Alwyn Cosgrove. A former fitness editor of Men’s Fitness magazine and fitness director of Men’s Health, he’s contributed to a long list of newspapers and magazines, including Shape, Men’s Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, and Fit Pregnancy.


37 thoughts on “Big Words

  1. Finding your site was just as easy as finding da Youngfellaz. Those guys even have a great myspace page, Jay Storm and Shobiz are a perfect addon to your site. I found them the same way I found your site. The search for good hip hop.

  2. I am such a BIG fan of Lou Schuler.

    I remember reading his articles when I was a Men’s Health subscriber around 10 years ago. And I still pinch myself I can call Lou a friend – and now he’s writing for my site!

    He’s got more coming too…

  3. great article well worth a read ! best of luck for the future. p.s fantastic website youv’e done a wonderful job in creating a informative website on subject’s such as these ! i currently work for this web organization http://www.politics.8lz.net political affairs board. And found this website to have some really interesting articles. i have passed this article onto some close colleagues who should find this well worth a read.

  4. Greetings :) Is it ok that I go a bit off topic? I am tryin to look at this website on my new Macbook but it won’t display properly (a few of the areas are almost completely covered), do you have any recommendations? Should I try to find an upgrade for my software or something? Thanks in advance! Genny x :)

  5. Hemingway considered his best work to be a six word novel someone once challenged him to write.

    “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

    More than ever, less is more.

    Thanks.

    Bryan

  6. Well said,

    Confusing your audience will NEVER help them much unless you are embedding hidden content on a recording and you are hoping a few people get the inspiration to research your choice of words in a dictionary.

    However, consider this…

    If you, in the midst of speech, say something like this:

    “She was so amazingly beautiful, she had such pulchritude, that she was a glowing wonder to everyone who saw her.”

    You not only pre-define your confusing vocabulary, but you demonstrate to be someone having a higher vocabulary. This can psychologically gain trust from people looking to have an intelligent guru with a large vocabulary (diction fans and English Majors).

    Of course, this is very easy to do when writing because you have the aid of an online dictionary.

    It however, is VERY difficult to do in speech, when you are in the moment and you don’t have time to think of the proper way to arrange your sentences.

  7. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. :)

  8. Well, this is my original curb prohibited for your webpage! We??re a association of volunteers and commencing a variety fresh drive in a community in the twin niche. Your weblog offered us useful observations to work on. You maintain done a out of this world suzerainty!

  9. I’m not going to lie this really is one of the few sites I truly enjoy reading through and it’s because of top quality content like this. Keep up the great job, these are definitely very helpful blogposts.

  10. Thanks to the fitness and marketing professionals for the kind responses, and thanks to the spammers for pointing out the many benefits of hair restoration, organ enhancement, and … whatever else all those spammers are trying to get us to click on.

  11. I would like to thnkx for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.

  12. I just wanted to jot down a simple message so as to thank you for those awesome items you are giving here. My time consuming internet look up has now been honored with incredibly good points to exchange with my two friends. I ‘d admit that most of us readers are truly lucky to be in a wonderful website with so many awesome individuals with useful solutions. I feel quite happy to have encountered the web page and look forward to really more thrilling times reading here. Thanks again for everything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>