So says a recent Princeton study, which compares respondents’ reactions to two versions of the same text, one with fancy-pants words, and one without. As the words got bigger, the respondents rated the intelligence of the writer lower.

Every year, I teach appellate advocacy to second-year law students. Law students, as you may know, generally talk like cops, while trying to sound like lawyers. So every year, I try to convince them that good lawyers talk like normal people, not “like lawyers.” From now on, I will show them this study.

If you need an excuse to eliminate jargon and Latin phrases from your writing and speaking, here you go. Spend the weekend practicing with some non-lawyer friends.

Study: Using big words needlessly makes you seem stupider | collision detection (via Neatorama)

(photo: Vlastula)


  1. Susan Gainen says:


  2. William Cook says:

    I agree. You can prove you have a big vocabulary or you can speak or write convincingly. I remember an old friend gave me some good advice to make that happen. He said “keep it simple, stupid.”

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