Throw away the thesaurus…

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.
— Stephen King

The sci-fi/horror scribbler was talking about novels (and we’re guessing he doesn’t read too many Will Self books), but we think the rule applies to almost every kind of writing…

Trying to sound intelligent is a pretty surefire way of losing, boring and/or confusing audiences. We’re not talking about “corporatespeak” (another post on that coming soon). This is deliberate ‘over-writing’ – using complex constructions or elaborate language simply to appear clever.

When it comes to writing for the web, we’d also extend this logic to choosing unnecessarily formal words when a simpler one will do.

Charities and businesses often slip into an academic tone when they want to sound serious or authoritative. (We think it’s a hangover from school/university, which rewards students for sounding “intellectual”).

We say no. And while we’re up on that high horse, there’s nothing to say that  “academic writing” has to be staid or dull anyway. The best way to relate to your readers – whether they’re boffins or customers (or both) – is to keep it simple.

Here are a few common offenders (and some alternatives)

Accorded Given For a period of… For
As a consequence of Because In relation to About
Assistance Help Numerous Many
Endeavour Try Operate Use
Close proximity Near Purchase Buy
Complimentary Free Solicit Ask for
Discontinue Stop Utilise Use