Tag Archives: Writing

Using simple words does not mean talking down

Over and over I tell my journalism and public relations students that using simple and clear words carry a lot more power than large,  multi-syllable words.

I often point to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. William Zinsser in On Writing Well noted of the 701 words in the address, 505 are one syllable and 122 are two-syllable words. That does not leave many words with three or more syllables. And despite these simple words, Lincoln’s speech of 1865 continue to inspire today. Proving simple words can be powerful.

And now, Randall Munroe, the author of XKCD (a great comic strip) explains things using the 1,000 most common English words.

From the pitch posted by Munroe:

The diagrams in Thing Explainer cover all kinds of neat stuff—including computer buildings (datacenters), the flat rocks we live on (tectonic plates), the stuff you use to steer a plane (airliner cockpit controls), and the little bags of water you’re made of (cells).

And all this came from a cartoon Munroe did for his XKCD strip called Up Goer Five, which explained the Saturn V rocket using only common words.

If the book is as good as Up Goer Five, I may have to order this book as required reading for my students.

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