On Lofty Language

I’m a sucker for five-dollar-words. Sometimes the monstrous, multi-syllabic words just roll right off the tongue and fight perfectly into what it is that you want to say. In scientific writing, and scientific speech, those extremely specific words often do a great job of making what you are saying very, very clear.

The problem is that there is a correct and an incorrect time to use certain types of language.

When I am talking to a colleague, especially someone within my field, I use very specific language that has very specific meaning within the confines of my field’s base of knowledge. In that case, where the context of specific words is well-established between us, it is very easy to communicate.

When I am talking to somebody else who doesn’t have quite the same background I do, should I use that same language? When I am talking to someone with different training and a different understanding of the context in which I use specific language and phrasing, should I use the same words?

Absolutely not!

One of the best things we can do as scientists and educators is to relay what we know and what we learn (whether that be through reading, experience, or research) to the people who can benefit from that information the most.

If dissemination of information is an important part of what I do as an academic, then I should be doing the things that most effectively relay the information that is most important.

If the five-dollar-words and jargon are getting in the way of that important pursuit- the sharing of knowledge- I say drop ‘em.

Use the language and speech that most effectively relays the key points to the audience in front of you.