Replace These Words in Your Writing

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Writing is hard, and weird, and in the scheme of human existence pretty new. We’ve been talking for maybe half a million years, writing for just about 5,000. So sometimes we write stuff that we’d never say aloud. We use a complicated or “smart-sounding” word when a simpler word would work better. New York Times editor Dan Saltzstein listed some great examples on Twitter. They pop up in news media, but also in “business speak.” If you’re trying to write effectively, watch out for these:

Twitter users suggested many more. (The > is a “greater than” sign, not an arrow. The words on the left are better.)

We’d like to add:

  • Name > dub
  • Turn > render
  • Big > massive
  • Maybe > perhaps

These aren’t rules, of course; they’re just suggestions, language is fluid , yadda yadda. Almost all the “lesser” words above have good uses. Save them for those uses. To leverage something is specifically to “use it to its maximum advantage.” Something sprawling is “spreading out over a large area in an untidy or irregular way.” Suits are bespoke, and medieval knights get slain. Okay, you’ve been waiting to add your own—go for it.

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