Are Big Words Better?

Do you prefer the word ‘reduced’ to the word ‘cut’?

Given the choice, would you use “generated savings of…” or “saved”?

I ask because recently I edited some website copy for someone who preferred big words to short ones and long, complex sentences to concise ones.

I\’m the opposite. I think simplicity is the key to good communication and I practice it all the time in my writing. I don’t like using three words when one will do and I don’t understand why people do it. I see it all the time in the resumes that come across my desk. They don\’t sound like a real person wrote them – instead they often sound wordy and long-winded and a little bit pompous. Like this:

“Visionary, strategic and results-focused senior level executive presenting a formidable record providing strategic and tactical leadership to departments and functions of 50+. High-powered leader with history of profitable leadership of cross-functional and matrixed teams within dynamic global enterprises. Attested ability to interface with clients, vendors and partners and to generate, execute and maintain forward-looking revenue enhancement strategies.”

What is that? No one talks like that! No one ever writes sentences like that in their entire lives … until it comes time to write a resume and then for some inexplicable reason, some of them do that!

Don’t do that please! Instead, write like a real person – as if you were writing a memo to your boss. Be clear, concise, professional and direct.  Try this as an alternative to the paragraph above:

“Senior executive with 15 years’ experience driving revenue gains and turning around under-performing businesses – for example, recently grew sales 27% in just one year for XYZ Company and took ABC Corporation from a loss to a multimillion dollar profit in 3 years (2000 to 2003).  History of building strategic partnerships – recent alliances have included Wal-Mart, Target and Barnes & Noble – and consistent focus on hiring and training the best talent in the industry.”

See how the second version is much easier to understand and also includes facts and figures instead of fluffy words that may sound impressive at first glance but actually don’t really mean all that much?

If I was still hiring, I’d want to talk to the second person. The first one? Not so much!

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