"No one likes a show-off" might be bad advice for contestants on Dancing with the Stars, but it's good advice for technical writing! Have you ever read a procedure or report and noticed all the big, showy words? Maybe you found yourself re-reading sentences, trying to understand the author’s meaning. You might have tried to look up a couple words you didn’t recognize, but couldn’t find them in the dictionary. Maybe you thought “all these buzzwords are really annoying” or even stopped reading in frustration. Those documents were probably filled with showy words and vogue words.
When I write a technical document, I keep these feelings in mind – they are exactly what I do NOT want readers to feel! If I use showy words and vogue words, I'm placing a barrier in documents that readers have to overcome. At best, showy words are going to make me sound self-important. At worst, showy words are going to make my writing impossible to understand.
Check this list of showy words and vogue words. Can you think of any simpler, more precise, or more meaningful words to use instead? For example, instead of using the showy word “implement,” I would use the plain-language alternative, “use.”
|Showy or Vogue Word||Simple Alternatives|
|conceptualize||think about, plan|
|cross-platform||works on different operating systems or in different formats|
|datafication||relies on data to work|
|epic||important, impressive, ambitious|
|herein||in this document|
|innovate||invent, update, change|
|innumerable||many, too many|
|monetize||turn into profit, make money from|
|obviate||avoid, prevent, remove|
|synergy||work well together|
|touch base||meet, talk, call|
Did you think of any other simple words to substitute? I would love to know your alternatives...contact me! Yes, this is my idea of fun...why do you ask?!
Now, one more question: did any of the showy, vogue words have a different meaning than you expected? This is one of the best reasons to use the simplest word that expresses your meaning: you can be confident that your documents say what you mean!