The Value of Simple Words

There seems to be an idea floating around in some people’s minds that all written communication should be long, complex, and verbose. That somehow, if the article is difficult to read and has lots of extravagant words, then the speaker is more intelligent.

I’ve seen people justify overly complex articles by saying that if someone else can’t or won’t take the time to understand these unnecessarily complex mind dumps that those other people must be dumb. So lacking in intelligence and education that they can’t grasp “obvious” ideas, and that they should stop being so lazy and improve their vocabulary.

If you’re one of those people that holds onto the verbose notion the problem might actually be you. Let me explain why.

With a few notable exceptions, like poetry, the purpose of words and language is to allow for ideas and information to be communicated between people.

Ideas and information are derived from our experiences. From the simple ideas, like the fact that if I drop a pen it will fall, to the complex, like the mathematics that allow planes to fly.

Photo by Kirill Zakharov on Unsplash

The power of language allows us to share these ideas or experiences with others for their benefit without them ever having to have experienced the event. It allows me to know that polar bears exist in the arctic without ever having to have seen one.

Written language takes this sharing power to another level by taking away the need for the sharer to be present at all. The article becomes a vessel for the experience allowing others to “experience” the event across distance and time at a moment that’s convenient for them.

Language also gives us a unique ability that we don’t get from real world experiences. The ability to summarize. We can filter down an experience to it’s most valuable parts and share that.

Beyond that it also gives us the ability to enhance or to embellish the experience. This is a double edged sword that allows us to both improve people’s understanding of the information by helping them draw connections that they wouldn’t have thought of, and to deceive by claiming things that didn’t actually happen.

Intelligent people can take a complex experience and simplify it in such a way that anyone can understand it. This is not always easy. A lot of effort can go into creating something that’s clear and easy to understand.

With the main goal of language being communication creating artificial barriers of “fancy” speech is both inefficient and detrimental to the communication of the ideas themselves. Making things hard for the sake of being hard is a moronic idea, and it makes it so that even the “intelligent” people have to waste additional time and effort to understand what you’re trying to say.

Photo by Zivile& Arunas on Unsplash

Beyond its inefficiencies I think that making information less accessible is morally wrong. We all start at dumb and it’s only through access to information and experiences that we get beyond it. “Dumb” people need access to information in order to learn new things. Consequently, by making information hard to understand people, who are actually interested in learning and improving, are held back.

So in conclusion, language and written text is fundamentally about communication, and anything that makes it harder for that communication to happen should be avoided.


Thanks for reading,

-Jared