Have you ever used the words “peripatetic” or “crepuscular” in casual conversation? If so, you may be an English lit graduate student—or a dedicated reader of the Reader’s Digest “Increase Your Word Power” column. Or maybe you think such words lend a welcome air of sophistication to your writing.
Think again. Obscure words—even though they are interesting and accurate—will often send your readers running in the other direction.
I received a terrific email on this subject from a colleague who colorfully describes these as “million-dollar words.” Though I lament the scourge of inflation (when I was a kid they were known as $10 words), I applaud the sentiment.
My friend went on to make an even more interesting point. “There are also thousand-dollar words that ought to be used as often as possible,” he said. “Instead of writing ‘laugh,’ we should use ‘roar,’ ‘guffaw,’ ‘chortle,’ ‘chuckle,’ or ‘giggle.'”