Thursday, November 03, 2005

Secrets of looking smart

Short words. Classic fonts.

Proof is here.

Many fledgling writers have been taught the mnemonic KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. A new study backs the wisdom of that advice.

Long words used needlessly along with complicated font styles — two tactics employed routinely by students trying to pad their work — are perceived as coming from less intelligent writers.

Or, to put it simply: Short words and classic fonts make you look smart.

Daniel Oppenheimer at Princeton University conducted five experiments manipulating the complexity of vocabulary or font style. Samples included graduate-school applications, sociology dissertation abstracts and translations of a work by Descartes.

The simple writing done in the easy-to-read font tended to be rated as coming from a more intelligent author than the more complex drafts.

"Anything that makes a text hard to read and understand, such as unnecessarily long words or complicated fonts, will lower readers' evaluations of the text and its author," Oppenheimer said.

So why do so many people do it?

"The continuing popularity amongst students of using big words and attractive font styles may be due to the fact that they may not realize these techniques could backfire," Oppenheimer said. "One thing seems certain: write as simply and plainly as possible and it's more likely you'll be thought of as intelligent."

To all those former staff members who were angry with us for the editing changes ...

To the children who thought Dad was hopelessly simple when he tried to teach them the simple touch ...

Hey, who's the big ignoramus now?


Post a Comment

<< Home