Its Not the Size of the Words that Counts
Do you have trouble being understood? How we speak and how we write is all influenced by the words that we select and use. Many people seem to go out of the way not to be understood and there are two duel sins, failure to understand the right word to use or alternatively trying to be too clever, the right words are a matter of balance.
- The Simple Word
- Right Word, Right Place
- Long or Complex Word
- The art(s) of Speaking and Writing
- Did you get it Right?
- More Articles for You?
The Simple Word
Dr Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters - a non-profit organisation that focuses on improving speaking and leadership skills - said "it is not the size of words that counts, but the clearness with which they represent your thoughts", I agree that in the general sense we should use the right word on the right occasion and that will help us communicate our ideas most appropriately, it is appropriate here to cite another authority in this respect, my mother, Flo Giblett, who was fond of stating to us brothers that "it is better to use a simple word that is known by all than a complex one that few people understand", a lesson that has remained with me a lifetime and it is one of the aims in writing this to share a joy of using words, building propositions, sentences and paragraphs, from a solid foundation of words and this article is centred on the idea that it was necessary to share a passion for the English language with the world and in that way encourage others to do all they can to improve.
(Dr Smedley's photo is courtesy Toastmasters International)
Right Word, Right Place
How can you use the right word in the right place at the right time all of the time? This is certainly a challenge, but a challenge that is worth taking. Are we ever going to stop making mistakes with the words that we use? The truth is that we humans are imperfect creatures and in some respects the day that we stop making mistakes is the day that. To tell a story, I was living an error free day a few years ago - nothing had gone wrong throughout the morning, and it seemed like the afternoon was plain sailing, I made no errors during the course of the afternoon and even went home right on time, to spend a lovely evening with my wife, all was great until a phone call at about 9pm from the office, well to cut a long story short, my day actually started with an error, almost he first thing I did required that an assumption me made, well of course that assumption was so nearly right, but not quite and that is where the perfect day turned into an imperfect week and many lessons to be learnt from it. Yes we are imperfect creatures and the truth is when it comes to selecting the right words to use we, more frequently than we care to admit, select the wrong word, especially when it comes to speaking or during the course of a conversation, but most of the time the only person that knows we have selected the wrong word is us and know matter how much we may wish to kick ourselves about it the utterance we made has let the wrong word out and we cannot shut the stable door now.
Just how do you go about selecting the right word to convey your thoughts? The truth is that to convey even the simplest of ideas there can be many words or word combinations that can be used that can be used and ultimately the combination of words that you select mus be focused on the audience that you have when speaking. you will use different words when speaking with a friend you have known since childhood than you would when talking to your boss than you would when attending an interview for a new job, with the lifelong friend you do not have to impress them with the words that you speak and it is permissible to let you hair down, there may actually be no mask worn in this situation but generally at all other times we resort to wearing a mask, having an alter ego behind which the real us hides.
Long or Complex Word
There is a time and a place to use a long or complex word, and usually this is where a group of like minded people are gathered together discussing a specific topic, where they are sharing thoughts common to their profession, but here it is fine because everyone is familiar with the language being used. The other occasion where you may use such words is where you are educating people in the use of new words and the complexities of the English language. Words like "introspection", "dysthymia" or "psycholinguistics" are not in everyday use and may need to be defined for the average person to understand.
- introspection - Contemplation of one's own thoughts, feelings, and sensations; a self-examination.
dysthymia - persistent mild depression
psycholinguistics - the relationship between language and the psychological process including the process of language acquisition.
The art(s) of Speaking and Writing
When speaking in the general sense it is important to use the right combination of words is that which conveys the idea most effectively, but you must remember here that advice it is not the size of the word that matters, but the clarity with which the idea is expressed and that matters most of all, it will allow you to talk effectively with your boss or to communicate at the interview and express how you have the right skills for that position.
Remember this you will speak differently when in a conversation, than performing a speech, and the words you use may also differ when writing a document. Baring this in mind it is unwise to simply read a thesis out loud and expect it will make a good speech, the contents may be of vital importance to the audience but by reading from the paper you are not connecting with your audience and the words or ideas that you express will lose their significance and that is certainly a challenge to the person presenting an academic paper because they are not focused on presenting a speech and here connecting to your audience is all about eye contact and knowing that they have understood what you have said, in a conversation it is easy to see the eyes glaze over, you should know whether they have understood or whether they are bored and in that conversation you do rely on the feedback you get from the other person
Did you get it Right?
Did you get the words right? With your friend chances are they will simply laugh if you say the wrong thing, it you speak in front of a Toastmaster meeting the chances are that even if you make a big blunder they will simply applaud you, yet the person evaluating you may offer a suggestion of a better word choice that can be used in that situation. Use the wrong word in an interview and 90% of the time it will not matter - the only time it is likely to mater is when the mistake you make is of crucial significance to your professional standing.
More Articles for You?
...any of the following articles, each published by Peter Giblett and may be of interest to you:
- Too Early in the Morning for Deadly Pranks? No!
- The Importance of Speaking and Writing to Mankind
- Cunningly Beautiful: Being Accepted with Article Publishing
- Article Writing: Is it Better to Type or use Voice?
- The Rockstar Wish: "Hope I Die Before I Get Old"
- The Goalkeeper: More than a Lonely Position at the Back of the Field
- Sticks & Stones: No Respect and There goes the Language
- Sticks and Stones: The Challenge of Technobabble
- Think Again! What has Happened to Original Thought?
- Of all the places in the World why do we Live Here?
- Handling the Panic Imperative
- Are you Scared of Heights? Maybe that Trip is not for You
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