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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (September 25, 2005)

Avoiding the Fancy

"Avoid fancy words. 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. " —from The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Recently, I said to my English 10 class that the biggest danger of a thesaurus was the temptation many students may have for choosing a fancier, more difficult word.

When your vocabulary is still weak, it is indeed tempting to choose those fancy words in an attempt to impress your reader (usually your teacher!). It is a mistake, however, to force the teacher to consult a dictionary in order to understand your work. Although it doesn't happen often, it is annoying.

To avoid this problem, use the Internet. Search for the word you are about to use. Is it found frequently (thousands of pages)? Or is it rare? Make your decision based on what you find.



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