People find it harder to get through an article or brochure if the writer has used unfamiliar words in places where they would normally expect familiar ones. If you’re trying to get an idea across, it’s better to keep your language as simple as possible.
It’s surprising how few copywriters heed this common sense, and instead choose to litter their work with contrived words and expressions. Often when trying not to sound too colloquial, they end up taking their writing to the other extreme. But using simple words doesn’t always mean ‘dumbing down’ – often the meaning of a simple word is just as specific and useful as that of a ‘big’ word: why say “ascertain” when you can say “find out” instead?
Even if you want to show off your vocabulary, we recommend that you avoid the following words:
“Utilise” sounds more formal than “use”, but it also sounds artificial. There’s nothing wrong with “use”. It’s a great word – not too chatty; your readers will love it.
People tend to use this word when they’re talking about things that computer programmes can do. Drop the last three syllables and you have “function(s)”, which means more or less the same thing.
People have hurled this whopping six-syllable buzzword around a lot in the last few years, but they rarely say what it is that can be “sustained” – what aspect of agriculture, an economy or the environment are they talking about, exactly? If you’re making something “sustainable”, explain what, how and why.
“This is our plan going forward,” someone might say. But they shouldn’t, because “going forward” is horrible business speak. If you’re talking about the future, say “from now on” or just use the future tense.
Leverage used to be a noun, but these days some people try to use it as a verb. Instead of “leveraging” something, try “using it to your advantage”.
Are there any words that drive you up the wall? Let us know and we’ll add them to our hitlist for a future article.