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Vocabulary quizzes are fun, but...

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

...there's a place for them. 

I do enjoy doing the Merriam-Webster vocabulary quizzes. Sometimes I learn new words, learn the origin of common words, or learn the names of uncommon objects or animals. 

use a simple vocabulary

However, an informative or persuasive article is not the place to practice your vocabulary skills.

It's not the place to use  words that readers won't instantly comprehend. 

I was reminded of this a few days ago when listening to a Georgia election official explain why he had voted not to verify the results of the 2020 election. He cited several reasons, one of which was that at the time of the election they were still "trying to functionalize" the voter machines. 

After he said "functionalize" two or three times, the person interviewing him finally said "What does that mean?"

"Oh," he answered. "It means they were trying to make them work."

He knew what he meant, but he had the wrong word.

In addition to using a "fancy" word when an ordinary one would have made his statement clear, he had the wrong word.

The actual definition of "to functionalize" is:

"To provide something with a function," or "To add a functional group to a compound (organic chemistry)"
 
The bottom line: You are more likely to confuse and annoy than to impress when you use unnecessarily long words. 

Comments(10)

Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
The Grit and Gratitude Agent

Technology has created a canyon between having good and understandable vocabulary and using acronyms, graphics, etc.  We have dumb downed our culture, IMHO.

Apr 12, 2024 09:05 AM
Marte Cliff

Yes, Leanne Smith, and it is apt to get worse. I'm not sure what they're teaching in school these days, but it doesn't seem to be much.  

Apr 13, 2024 12:01 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good afternoon Marte,

As usual you make too much sense. First you need to understand your audience and speak appropriately! Sometimes trying to impress with words your not comfortable ca backfire and cauce annoyance!

Apr 12, 2024 11:04 AM
Marte Cliff

Dorie Dillard Austin TX I'm never impressed by anyone who is obviously trying to impress, but sometimes it is funny. When they think they know what they're saying and the word is all wrong, they look so foolish! 

Apr 13, 2024 12:02 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Hi Marte... what a great example. I hear things on TV all the time that are similar situations... and I'm always tempted to write to the station and suggest their people learn the right words. But then, I never do!

Apr 12, 2024 01:21 PM
Marte Cliff

I know, Nina Hollander, Broker. It is tempting. But whoever read the letter wouldn't care.
I tried telling our local newspaper editor that the phrase is "should have," not "should of," but she didn't listen. She's still writing should of, could of, and would of. 

Apr 13, 2024 12:04 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Marte- right once again.  Besides using the wrong word more attention is called to it by using a long word. I try to write as I speak, for the post part. 

Another pet peeve are the buzz words that appear in different business cycles such as actionable. 

Apr 12, 2024 07:42 PM
Marte Cliff

I agree, Kathy Streib. Some of those are really annoying. So are some of the more common words that become overused. I'm thinking of awesome and amazing, for example.

Apr 13, 2024 12:07 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Marte Cliff  you are so right, I have seen a few marketing propagandas, that I had to look up one or two words.... all it told me was the agent was a phony baloney and I was not impressed:) Great post and great message, Endre

Apr 12, 2024 09:55 PM
Marte Cliff

Thanks Endre Barath, Jr. Do these people really think that trying to say "I'm smarter than you" to a prospect is a good way to get clients?

They're pretty dumb if they think that!  

Apr 13, 2024 12:09 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Apr 13, 2024 07:31 PM
Marte Cliff

Thank you Kathy Streib!

Apr 14, 2024 08:10 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Haven't you noticed that the ignorant someone is the more they try to cover it up with three syllable (or more) words.

Apr 14, 2024 05:29 AM
Marte Cliff

Lise Howe - I hadn't really thought about that, but now that I do - you are right! 

Maybe it is to cover some basic insecurity? We had a neighbor who was well educated but didn't know a lot about things like taking care of his house and equipment.

He had been a high school teacher. Sometimes when he came to visit he would use big words, then spell them and give us definitions. 

Apr 14, 2024 08:12 AM
Kat Palmiotti
eXp Commercial, Referral Divison - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

I used to love (when I was a teenager) the word quizzes in the Reader's Digest magazine. I always learned something. 

As for using vocabulary words in a post or book - There are times I have to stop reading something and look up a word. Then I have to go back and re-read it. I wouldn't want people who read my material to have to do that!

Apr 14, 2024 06:47 AM
Marte Cliff

That's why copywriters are taught to write to a 6th or 7th grade reading level, Kat Palmiotti.

In marketing, you don't want anyone to have to stop to think about your words. You only want them to absorb your message.

If you still like vocabulary quizzes, go to: https://www.merriam-webster.com/ and sign up for the word of the day - from there you can get all sorts of quizzes and word games.  

Apr 14, 2024 08:55 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you!

Apr 14, 2024 10:18 AM
Elyse Berman, PA
LoKation Real Estate - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824

This is so true, Marti.  You have to write in simple words for the public.  

Apr 14, 2024 08:33 AM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

If you are going to use a fancy word ( with your next breath you should explain what that means !!!)

Apr 17, 2024 06:50 AM