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Never Use a Word You Can’t Spell

Short words! Short sentences! Short paragraphs!

February 5, 2013 By Denny Hatch
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I've finally come up with a title for my new book on writing:

"WRITE IT RIGHT: Let the world's greatest copywriters show you how to make readers love your emails, letters, memos, blog, ads, white papers, annual reports, PowerPoint, articles, books, website and yes, especially your résumé."

Here's a preview—the chapter on Words that follows Outlines, Research, Plagiarism, Getting Started, Headlines, Ledes, Moving the Readers' Eyes 1 & 2, and lots of other stuff.

I hope you find it useful.

"'What's all this business of being a writer? Just putting one word after another.' My reply was, 'Pardon me, Mr. [Irving] Thalberg—putting one right word after another.'"
—Lenore Coffee (1896-1984), American screenwriter, playwright, novelist

"Build a big vocabulary, but use it sparingly."
—Jack Maxson

"[Hemingway] has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
—William Faulkner

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use."
—Ernest Hemingway (A. E. Hotchner, "Papa Hemingway"

"Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all."
—Winston Churchill

"Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs."
—Andrew J. Byrne

The 12 Most Evocative Words of the English Language
At a transformative lecture on my first day at Grolier Enterprises in 1966, Lew Smith pulled out a column from the old Saturday Review by radio personality Goodman Ace and writer for The Perry Como Show, who had assembled the 12 most powerful and evocative words in the English Language:

You - Save - Money - Easy - Guarantee - Health
Proven - Safety - Discovery - New - Love - Results

I typed up this list and pasted it at the base of the lamp on every desk I ever had; the logic: If these are the most powerful and evocative words, my copy should be laced with them.

In his sales pitch for vacuum cleaners, David Oreck uses—or implies—every one of these words. The health and safety comes from the built in dust protector. He guarantees his product and, if for any reason you're not satisfied with it, you can return it for full refund. It's a proven product, because more than 1 million of them have been sold. And users are thrilled with the results. Oreck offers a free hand vac when you buy the 8-pound Oreck XL 2000 model.



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