It is true that a bigger word isn't always as effective as a simpler one, and bigger words won't mask the lack of scholarship. However, it is also true that neither is a simpler, more general word always the most appropriate. I am sure I recently read the statistic that Shakespeare used 20,000 words in his plays... surely he did that to make them more interesting.
To me, there is something good to be said about having a large vocabulary and knowing how to use it. I am surprised that this research calls this a sign of lower intelligence. I am surprised and I lightly scoff. Is this another harbinger of the "dumbing down" of society?
<Hope nobody minded that I used "harbinger" instead of "sign" again.>
I thought this was interesting:
"The fact that the non-obfuscated essays are easier to read makes people like them better, which in turn makes people evaluate the essays more positively in all dimensions--including the intelligence of the author," Oppenheimer noted.
This reminds me of the hoohaw a year or two ago when a teacher used the word "niggardly" and nearly lost his job.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that big words can look totally stupid and out-of-place... I've seen it many times on college essays. <ugh> It can be embarassing to to read. The best writing is clear, succinct and uses words that are honest and well-known to the writer.
However I see nothing wrong with a practicing writer actively learning new words ... what is the shame in that?
So is the point of this "news" that we're supposed to quit learning (at some arbitrary point) and using new words or else the "thought police" will give us a "bad grade"? I would be very surprised if anyone (almost anyone) at a2k didn't want to continue to learn.
These are the examples from this article that purport to show good and a bad writing:
He explained in an interview that one essay might contain the (GOOD) phrase "the primary academic goal I have set for myself is to use my potential to the fullest"; its (BAD) counterpart read "the principal educational aspiration I have established for myself is to utilize my capabilities to the fullest."
Even the "good" statement is poor. It is in a passive format and babbles about a simple truth. Why else would someone bother to enter academia except to do well? Who the hell knows their potential or capabilities until they've stretched themselves? What are their damned secondary and tertiary goals then? Those are probably much more interesting.
I would much rather read something written where the language was played with, where it was light-hearted and interesting. And I, for one, am always pleased to learn and savor a new word.