Stop using long words to look smart or thrustworthy

I have been reading a lot lately and there is something I need to share. It’s an older study by Daniel Oppenheimer, but it seems a lot of the authors didn’t hear about it yet. The title of the study? Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity.

Oh you, didn’t get that? The subtitle will make it much more clear: problems with using long words needlessly.

I summarized this also in The Ingredients for Great Teaching:

If you are a speaker, it is obviously of vital importance that the people listening to you can understand what you are saying. There is no point in blinding your audience with the eloquence of your words. Nowhere is this truer than in the classroom, otherwise you run the risk that the pupils will stop listening. While research has shown that intelligent people are more inclined to use difficult words, it is ironic to note that other research suggests that the use of difficult words makes you seem less intelligent (Pennebakern, & King, 1999)! In three simple experiments, Daniel Oppenheimer (2006) has demonstrated that fluent texts with simple language are more positively assessed by readers. This does not mean that you should never learn jargon or must eliminate difficult words from your vocabulary. But the more easily a reader or listener is able to digest your message, the more highly you will be regarded as a speaker or writer.

References:

  • Pennebaker, J.W., & King, L.A. (1999). Linguistic styles: language use as an individual diffe- rence. Journal of personality and social psychology, 77(6), 1296.
  • Oppenheimer, D.M. (2006). Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20(2), 139-156.

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