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Bigger is not better: A response to my good friend Rahman

So my friend Rahman and I were peer editing another friend’s work today, and we both got caught up on this one sentence:

Meditation offers a reprieve from our busy thoughts and a macro lens from which to view our circumstances.

Our comments:

Screen Shot 2020-02-18 at 12.14.19 AM.png

Both our comments referred to the use of reprieve.

Rahman wrote an essay in response to my comment, defending big words, and defending reprieve.

Now Rahman, we’ll talk about who’s right and who’s wrong, but I have to confess, if I came off a bit self-righteous about this, it’s because I am. You know, I believe in small words. I believe in fancy, and not in pompous; in weight, and not in gravitas; in breaks, and not in reprieves. I believe that in reaching a general audience, the ends justify the means.

I might be an extreme in this. I think this is because most of my friends don’t read as much as me. You know, they don’t read books or blogs, they learn through Youtube and tag me in dank memes. I want to reach them too, and it’s been a big question on my mind, if I want to reach them, is blogging the right medium? Should I get on Youtube? Or another medium, that’s more accessible? TikTok?

Now, this isn’t a complete argument for small words, but I’m explaining why I care so much: because I wanna reach my friends. And, heck, more than a few times have I used a medium word to be asked what it means.

But to that specific sentence today, you know what?

You’re right. I’m wrong.

It’s not always OK to reduce a word to its simpler synonym. I agree, the new word loses some of its nuance. Especially after your passionate defense, I do see, break lacks the color of reprieve. And reprieve isn’t even a big word, just a medium one.

But hey man, in moderation, OK? Maybe a medium word every paragraph. Maybe more if the word just fits. Or maybe just as long as your piece is Grade 9 reading level or lower.

That’s what I think, anyway.

What do you think, dear reader?

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