The hidden cost of ten dollar words

Ever used a foreign word in a piece of writing?  Some obscure thesaurus word or technical jargon?  Even better a bit of Latin?  As I’ve already written, long words actually make you look more stupid, not more intelligent.  But an article in Slate reveals a new risk: public ridicule.

Don’t get me wrong: I get a kick out of $10 words, too, and even use them now and again to make my pieces showier. But the psychic surcharge deters me from using them often enough to fall into the faux-erudition trap that bedevils undisciplined, rich writers like Martin Peretz, co-owner and editor-in-chief of the New Republic. He burns through $10 words and phrases like they’re kindling.

I’m feeling smug about this because I used the words laissez-faire and dirigiste in an article yesterday about French restaurants and then deleted them.  Yay, me!  (I was reviewing Guy Savoy, a three star place in Paris for the Robb Report – a rotten job but someone has to do it).

7 Responses to The hidden cost of ten dollar words

  1. matt August 8, 2006 at 3:31 pm #

    I don’t agree with this or the earlier post. The research methodology was clearly flawed. They replaced words with “the longest synonymn”. However, that does not mean that the correct usage was utilized, as synonyms have various connotations.

    One dead give away of an small intellect using vocabulary that he does not comprehend is using the synonym with the incorrect connotation. That is why the study results were what they were.

  2. Denise March 1, 2007 at 6:42 pm #

    Perhaps matt should review his own sentences and their structure before commenting on anyone else’s work (second paragraph: “an small intellect” – and the whole sentence does not read right). Also, the last sentence of the first paragraph states, “…does not mean that the correct usage was utilized, as…” Usage was UTILIZED? Please find an English instructor to help you convey properly what you were REALLY trying to say!

  3. Sandra McKenzie August 21, 2008 at 5:43 pm #

    Coming very late to this discussion.
    Perhaps a better construction would have been “…the usage was wrong.”

  4. Megan March 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm #

    Perhaps Denise shouldn’t fall into the long-held Internet tradition of nitpicking somebody’s grammar just because you don’t agree with their general point. Congrats Denise, you sound like a messageboard troll.

    It doesn’t matter if the person writing knows the meaning of the word or not- concise writing ALWAYS reads better. Buzzwords, foreign phrases and archaic terms are not concise. Any writer that uses them is just trying to prove themselves worthy of their post-secondary education. They’d do a better job by focusing their efforts on making a convincing argument.

  5. Drew April 2, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    Megan. You’s Rock! Great point and well said!

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