Language is evolving. Since the inception of the vocabulary, words have shifted and grown, contracted and expanded, vanished and reappeared. Language is a beautifully complex part of the human life and something which we simply cannot do without. And today, with modern media’s technological landscape? Language is more important than ever. Even from the most basic SEO standpoint, having content that fully utilizes language is a must. The search engines themselves are thirsty for words, and as the different media platforms change, as do our tactics and our ways of communication.
Thus, language is always necessary, language is always changing, and language is a cornerstone in today’s media and scoring big with your content. And, by goodness, we all want to score big with our content. But today’s content creation is often stifled by the age-old expectation: the smaller the words, the better. The shorter the sentences, the cleaner. The simpler the message, the safer. Time and time again complicated work is shredded to make way for more readable, more gentle text. This is what we’re used to. This is what is presumed to be right. Even certain SEO systems will scold you for overreaching on the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale. But what if smaller isn’t better? What if we’re on the brink of an age where bigger may be, dare I say, drastically better?
It’s Not a Rare Skill Anymore
The global literacy rate in the modern age for people ages 15 and up is roughly 86%, while for developed nations specifically it’s a full 99%. We do not live in an age where the average person does not have the tools to be able to read. Rather, we live in an age where tools for reading, learning, and self-betterment are literally constantly at our fingertips. If we have a question about the world around us, we almost always have the answer within a single search and a single click. This was not the case even 20 years ago. We live in a time where knowledge is more free than perhaps it ever has been- and with that knowledge, inevitably, comes the expansion of the average person’s grasp of language.
No longer do we need to reach for a dusty dictionary perched precariously on our closet shelf when we approach an unfamiliar word. When a word confounds us, it may used to do so for more than ten minutes- now it is rare for it to be a stumbling block for more than ten seconds. As a global community, we now have a better, more efficient, and more profound access to the vocabulary of each of our languages than the world has ever seen. And what are we still beating into our content writers? Smaller is better.
It’s Okay to Use Big Words
It’s time to challenge the claim that smaller is better. It’s time to recognize that we no longer need to baby the public and assume that complex sentences and unfamiliar words will automatically turn a reader off. If complicated content turns a reader off, it is due to the training that media specialists have beaten into our readers over the years: read only the simplest, read only the shortest.
It’s time to hurry up and slow down. It’s time to invite long sentences full of carefully-placed punctuation and poetically-crafted phrases back into our regular day-to-day life. It’s time to quit dumbing down and simplifying our content for an audience who is neither dumb nor simple. That doesn’t mean that language has to be flowery and rambling to be “better” – Hemingway has already proven that. However, it does mean we have the option to stop beating our heads over whether or not our readers will understand a word that we used in an article we wrote a month ago.
Communication Is Key
It’s 2016, and technology has given us the opportunity to re-invite, reinstate, and re-introduce big words into our regular language. Doubtless language will change on its own with time and with the pressures of modern media surrounding it, but we have the freedom today to intentionally begin challenging ourselves with content we would not normally feel free to write.
So, go ahead. Use that word you think might be unknown to your audience. Your audience isn’t incapable. And the sooner we, as a community, embrace the challenge of using more expansive and vibrant vocabularies in our given languages, the sooner we will be able to communicate more fully and effectively with one another as a species; the sooner we will be able to understand one another better; the sooner big words will become winners.