Monday, November 22, 2010

Size Is Relative

I was talking with one of my coworkers, playfully insulting him.  I said at one point that it is just so much fun demeaning him. Then he told me that I shouldn't use such big words around him.

This really surprised me.  I never thought of "demeaning" as a big word.  It was a pretty standard word.  Everybody knew what it meant and never thought much about it.

But here I was, being told that it was a big word.  All I could figure was that he wasn't a writer and just didn't care too much about language or learning words.  Maybe it was a big word because it was still rare to him.

Whatever the case, it was a sobering reminder that everything is relative.  The words you choose you may think are safe, but if you're using effective language, chances are you're going to use words that somebody will find think are too advanced (and others will think are pedantic).

There's nothing you can do about this, though.  You can't determine what words people do and don't know, nor how they feel about those words.  All you can do is write the way that feels natural, and let it attract the people who like it.

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