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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (June 5, 2007)

Avoid Fancy Words!

 "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.

In keeping with our discussion of persuasion and propaganda last week, I recalled some classic advice from The Elements of Style. Trying to impress with vocabulary can easily backfire! Every month or so a student uses a word that requires that I use a dictionary. Since my vocabulary is extensive, it's usually a sign of getting too "fancy" and trying to be "pretentious."

Ask yourself this question: Have I seen the word before and often? If you have, it should be safe to use.


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