“Maybe he was trying to simplify his message enough so everyone could understand it,” my co-worker said.
Maybe. But is simple really better?
Although I work as the director of Media Relations for Imagine Marketing, I graduated from UNLV with my degree in journalism and media studies. In journalism we are taught to write at an eighth grade level so everyone can understand it. Keep your stories short and to the point and maybe your reader will read it to the end.
With the advent of text messaging and social media, our messages to one another have become as simplified as possible as well. Overnight, it seems, our culture transitioned from saying “thank you” to texting “thx;” from using complete sentences to writing almost unintelligible fragments; from taking the time to learn grammar and punctuation to simply sprinkling commas and apostrophes haphazardly throughout our work.
Today we turn novels into Cliff’s notes and read quotes instead of the speeches they came from.
Instead of challenging our audiences (or ourselves) to use a dictionary, we communicate in the simplest of terms, settling for whatever word or phrase comes to mind – regardless of whether it’s actually the most appropriate.
I know I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. In fact, I find myself chuckling when people use words like “errant” and “iteration” and “somniferous” when instead I should be writing those words down when I read them or hear them, challenging myself to add them to my own feeble vocabulary.
But, then again, why should we push ourselves to go that extra mile? Why expand our vocabulary when everything around us is communicated using words we already know? Why use spellchecker when only four or five words have a red squiggly line underneath them? Why take the time to understand grammar and punctuation when people can already decipher what we’re saying? Who cares whether we’ve shortened the story to the point of losing its meaning?
We should – because we take pride in ourselves and what we represent.
Melissa Rothermel is Director of Media Relations for Imagine Marketing.
Contact Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org