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In Praise Of Short Words

Hi. I wrote this for fun, to see if I could write a coherent essay using only one-syllable words. You be the judge.

When we try to deal with big thoughts there is no rule that says we must use big words. In fact, short words are just as good as long ones for most of our needs. Still, most of us find that it’s hard to say what we mean with plain words, so we tend to use a lot of big words when a few small ones would do just as well. We miss the key point that to say the least may be the best way to say the most.

Most of us have learned not to trust big words and those who use them. Of course, not all big words are meant to hide the truth, nor do all those who use them mean to lie – at least some of the time. Big words can be used to make fools of all of us, and though we all know this is so, when it comes to some big words, and some of those who use them, we do not act on what we know to be true till too late, and by then we are ‘had’, as they say.

More and more these days our heads are filled with big new words meant to sell us on false dreams. These big words and the false dreams that come with them may seem real to us at first, but in the end, most of these big words lead to traps that hold us in their grip and do not let go. The odd thing is that most of the time, though most of us know such dreams are false, and are bound to fail, we don’t trust what our own hearts and minds tell us, and we do not seem to learn.

That’s why I say that small words are, for the most part, the best way to find our true voice when we want to speak of things we feel deep in our heart like our love, our pain, our joy, our dreams, fears, and hopes. The use of plain words makes us work hard to seek core thoughts and truths, and bright clean small words leave no dark place for lies, half truths, or vague thoughts to hide. To write or speak this way gives us a kind of strength which we lose if we choose big words that just sound good, and don’t bear their share of the load as we try to give voice to what we see, or to let the world hear what is in our heart. When we speak or write from our true heart and mind then we will find that it is the small words that best help us to say what is true and real in our lives.

The Rule Of One is our best guide to a style that will keep us true to what we mean to say. This rule says that when you have a thing to say that you want to be clear to each one who hears, you must try to say what you mean in words that have just one beat, one clear, plain pulse. When you tune your ear and tongue to this Rule of One, you will find that your mind, tongue and pen flow with streams of crisp, clear words.

There will be times when you need a big word to say what you mean, and of course that’s the way it should be. Big words are there for us when we have to deal with things that are so wide and deep that small words just won’t do. But I find that if I use plain words when I can, more of my thoughts seem to get through to more of those who I want to reach.

We all know how hard it is to be clear and to the point when we try to deal with big thoughts. We are prone to think that plain thoughts are not worth as much as those with more twists and turns. While it is clear that we can’t use short words in all of what we say and write, we can each do more than we now do to make our thoughts clear with the use of short, plain words.

Small words are the breath of our heart and the seeds of our mind, and the skill to use them with grace and art is a true gift. Each of us knows what words like love, hope, joy, fear, and pain mean with no one to tell us. What such words mean is just there, in our shared minds, like bright stars that glow in the night sky where we all can see them and know them for what they are and what they mean. They guide us in our search for a way to speak so that all who hear us will know just what we mean.

So my friends, let’s try to use small, old words when we want to make what we mean clear to all. If a big word is our best choice, then we should not fear to use it, but our tongues are so rich with crisp, brisk, clear, short words that we should try to make them the crux of what we say and write.

Short words are like old friends; they will not let you down.

Would you like to learn to speak and write with style?