In my former legal assistant profession, I dealt with many shades of people–some so colorful they would make a rainbow appear drab. These same people were usually the ones who used language that grated on my nerves.
Let me clarify. I’m not specifically talking about precise use of language (“smart” vs. “intelligent” vs. “clever”). Yes, please do be as precise as possible as long as it’s within your normal vernacular. Nor am I talking about slang; to me, slang or other colorful language is just fine as long as you’re making your point clearly. And Lord knows I don’t always use precise words, or even words for that matter. You know–as in, that (whatever) is “that thang over there” (gesturing wildly). As long as the person can figure out what I’m talking about, I’m happy.
What irritates me is when people use words like:
- Stated vs. said
- As well vs. also or too
- Utilize vs. use
I subscribe to E.B. White’s philosophy:
The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.
–The Elements of Style (Allyn & Bacon, 1999)
Basically, keep it simple, silly. Just say what you mean and mean what you say. There’s absolutely no reason to try to use “bigger” words to try to appear smarter. You’re not making your case well. In fact, you’re well on your way to disproving your intelligence.
That you feel the need to show off your smarts by using language that is obviously unnatural to you or unnecessarily wordy proves you haven’t thought things through. Or, maybe you’re like me and think entirely too much while you’re speaking. Either way, chill out. You aren’t on trial for the way you speak or the words you say. Sure, clean up your language if you cuss a lot. But there’s no need go overboard.