Does a big vocabulary make you look like a showoff?

You love obscure words. Is there a place for them in communications and the work world, or do they simply alienate your audience?

One of its sources criticized the insouciance of multibillionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, saying he owned a private jet and didn’t understand travel as experienced by the wee folk.

A Bloomberg spokesman replied, “It’s always nice to hear someone who has no idea what the mayor is thinking bloviate on what the mayor is thinking.”

Do unusual words such as bloviate enrich communications? Or do you risk baffling your audience and looking like a showoff if you parade your highfalutin vocabulary?

JetBlue PR person Allison Steinberg, who called my attention to the Bloomberg spokesman’s quote, knows where she stands. “I love to add panache to my communications with gargantuan words,” she says, “but only when it isn’t superfluous.”

Educated, or an awful prat?

Ellen Gunning, director of the Irish Academy of Public Relations and author of “Public Relations: a Practical Approach,” warns that tossing out obscure words when speaking publicly is risky.

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.