The Curious Case of a Discombobulated Reader

by Jan Geronimo on January 28, 2009

Jessica Alba posing in a Declare Yourself bond...Image via WikipediaI hate to be told not to use fancy or long words in written communication. Even in blog posts. The old guards of the blogosphere say so every chance they get. Their admonition to fellow web authors about keeping your words short is getting to be a tad irritating already.

So much foul epithets are attributed to users of long words: pompous, stupid, stuffy, pretentious, and arrogant to name what immediately calls to mind.

I have no love lost either on writers who mistake long words for lofty thoughts. It’s not about that at all. It’s the stigma some proponents of brevity generally foist on writers who pen long, difficult words.

What? It will prove to be my readers’ ruination if I use long words now? Come on. Do you perhaps think the average blog reader is a retard? He will be scarred for life if a couple of daunting words are thrown his way?

Can he not be trusted to google the “offending” word? Can he not be relied upon to see for himself if the polysyllabic word is in fact used judiciously?

Yeah, right. He does not have the time. But you trust him to survive these things:

1. your brilliant lolcat posts
2. your stream-of-consciousness, free-association posts on the minutiae of your life
3. your consuming passion not with Jessica Alba, not with Johnny Depp, not with the enduring issues known to man, but your love for SEO. Is it not a little sick?

At the very least, you’re not afraid to put your readers to sleep with your treatises. It’s your heresy that the average reader’s brain cells numbering in the billions and still replicating can survive your spiel, but not a few choice long words. Yeah, right.

If you care about the language, don’t stop at clarity. Why start lining up long words to make them face the wall as if for some imagined offense when you can teach equally important writing concepts such as coherence? Or unity of thought. Or precision in writing.

So what if the word is long – if it’s the only precise word then go for it. Why settle for something short but tepid? Precision is the key.

What will happen to long words if our venerable gurus hold sway – do you have any idea? They will shrivel up their muscles in disuse. They’d haunt dark alleys and passageways. At best, they will become bewhiskered specimen in Wikipedia or encased in glass in some forlorn museums. Well then. In this blog, I welcome you all. Here you will not be persecuted. And that includes the longest word – non-coined and non-technical – in the English language: antidisestablishmentarianism. You’re one badass. I see you have edged Shakespeare’s honorificabilitudinitatibus for this distinction.

You’re all welcome. Make yourself at home.

I might not get to have use for all of you, but the best ones will have the honor to discombobulate these self-styled watchmen of the English language.

Recommended reading: Hangman, Spare That Word: The English Purge Their Language

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  • aye aye! i have been persecuted time and again for using too much polysyllabic words in my posts, uncle jan. but as you have very well expounded, why hold the bar if that's the only word that will express your thought wholly?

    two days in this e-abode and now i'm going gaga over your writing like a john lloyd cruz colegiala fan. sheeesh!
    .-= lio loco´s last blog ..SSDD No. 3 =-.
  • Jan Geronimo
    @lio loco: Thanks, Lio Loco. I'm now a recovering inflicter of long words. I've since slowly adopted my writing style to make it more simple. Pero every now and then, just out of spite or habit perhaps, I throw a long word into the post just to satisfy may sadistic impulse. Ahahaha. Hay naku, I've always wanted to be precise. If a post needs a long word to convey the exact meaning I wanted? No hesitation at all - I'll use the long word. Di naman mix and match ng ukay ukay ang writing eh. Pero un na nga - I'm a recovering nosebleed inducer. I'm on good behavior na these days. Wag lang magkarelapse. :)
  • Jan
    @Dee: My reader is groaning under the weight of proponents of SEO and every thing that's got to do with attracting readers, subscribers and many ways of tweaking one's blog. I read all of them by compulsion. Strangely, however, I find myself very happy just getting the post out of my system. When they're all out there - my "children" for all the world to see - it's only then I remember about the "lessons" I should have made a part of my post. Of course, I can always tweak here and there after the fact. But the truth of the matter is I don't. My children are on their own. They just have to fend for themselves, I guess.

    So I see, based on your observation, I belong to the second species of web authors. At least for now.

    I'm grateful for your insightful comments. Thanks for dropping by. :)
  • Dee
    Hi. Chanced upon your blog while blog-hopping.

    I can't help but share my two cents here because I've also questioned these rules when I started blogging. I also love to write long verses and play with words, so I do share your sentiment.

    I think it really all boils down to the reason or why a person is blogging in the first place. If he blogs because he wants to find his voice, develop his writing talent or showcase his writing ability, and doesn't at all care about SEO or page rank, etc., then he may write according to his writing style.

    But if he is blogging because he wants the Google bots (SEO) to find his blog and increase his traffic, then he should always be sure to tailor fit his writing with SEO guidelines.

    I believe, though, that no matter how you write, as long as you're true to yourself, sooner or later people would find you, and those with similar love for that kind of writing will appreciate it and keep coming back for more.
  • Jan
    @yatot: Yesterday's post was scheduled for today, but I published it "to cover my tracks" regarding this post. I nearly made a fool of myself with the tone I used - again, the problem with tone. I have no problem with the basic idea behind the post though because I still believe in it. I just wished I wrote it with a little humor thrown in.

    And now you're egging me on. Nyahahaha.

    Promiscuous with words. That's a titillating idea. I'm sure I can learn a lot from you. Hehehe.
  • yatot
    @jan: oh just be promiscuous about the use of words here in your blog so that people wont nosebleed... hahahha... oooppss... "promiscuous"... my bad! hahahah
  • Jan
    @Mye: I caused you nosebleed and for that you're adding me to your blogroll? :) I understand where you're coming from. I long as well to be understood. I just can't resist to get the goat of some people. Now that I've written it, I can go back now to my amiable self. Thanks for being patient and generous.
  • mye
    hi jan - it almost made my nose bleed! i can hardly understand some of the words. i should probably consult my thesaurus first. hehe. but you know, generally you are a good writer...i mean it really shows and i should say, you have quite a collection of vocabularies which is well and good for a writer.

    as for me, i write thinking i am the reader myself so i don't use complicated words that may strike out the interest of my readers...after all, what we want are quality readers to stay and read and probably comment on our posts, isn't it?

    good luck in everything you do and Godspeed!

    i've added you to my blog roll (hope you won't mind ^_^)
  • Jan
    @Gagay: Oh, an award I see. Gee, thanks...There's a precondition? - "hope you can do this." Well... :)

    @yatot: Got my ass whipped in DOTA. Perhaps that explains the bile. Hehehe. Truth to tell, no reader nor a friend has angered me about this. I just got carried away with my arguments.

    @Bingkee: Deleting your candid comment never entered my mind, Bingkee. You tell it like it is. Your candor is amazing and I'd be a fool not to value it. It shows you care. Not every online friendship is blessed with such honesty and commitment.

    Actually, I have no quarrel with clarity and brevity as pillars of good writing.

    It's just that I find it irritating reading on countless blogs that big words are completely out off the table. I need to keep my options open and be trusted I'd not make a fool of myself too much. :)

    Thanks a lot for your comment, Bingkee. That's a blog post in itself - a brilliant rebuttal indeed. And very tactful not to damage this hotheaded blogger's ego too much - when you very well can. Hehehe.
  • bingkee
    Honestly, sometimes I don't understand the words you used....probably because I'm not that verbally proficient. I have to ask my husband some of the "phrases" you used editor and my dictionary. But I don't think the admonition you got is for you to be upset about. It 's just a way for them to tell you that you probably have to go to "conversational" because it is a blog they're reading. I am sorry and do apologize for caring about this because I believe in your lofty thoughts. However, as a writer myself (trained to write to be understood by a general audience) I learned to be writing like "I am your reliable friend, so listen to me and trust me in what I have to say."
    I believe you're a good writer and one who has brilliant thoughts but there are times brilliance can be shown in simple ways so people can empathize with it. If you care about readership , you have to empathize with them . There are people who read blogs who do not use. either in written or in verbal forms, the words you used and they don't have time to go and look it up in the dictionary. People want to read blogs for information, entertainment, and inspiration and these don't require "fancy words"---they want something they can relate, learn from and get amusement.

    If ever you don't want to post this comment, it is okay, but I am speaking here as your friend and as one who also noticed what was admonished.

    But if you don't agree with me, it's your blog anyway, you can do anything you want to do with it. As long as you're happy with it and satisfied with it. Good luck and God bless you!
  • yatot
    it's okay to write anything on your blog... that reminds everyone that this blog is still yours... you have the right to type or key-in everything! you control the words that being written here (in your blog) constructively or destructively... you are still the owner of your own personal cyberspace...

    i can sense anger or perhaps disappointment towards a reader or perhaps a friend... am I right? hhehehe... just asking... :D
    Kuya Jan, i have something for you at http://walkingnewspaper.blogsp...

    hope you can do this..take care!

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