Thursday, March 24, 2016

Eschew Inkhorn Terms

Queen Elizabeth's confidant Thomas Wilson warned writers away from fancy words 450 years ago in his Art of Rhetoric.

Wilson paid no court to "clerks" who used "outlandish English."

He called their fandangles "inkhorn terms"—words only pedants prefer.

Wilson warned:

Among all other lessons this should first be learned, that we never affect any strange inkhorn terms, but to speak as is commonly received: neither seeking to be over-fine or yet living over-careless, using our speech as most men do.

Think you're immune from Wilson's law, because yours is a C-level audience?

Think again.

Inkhorn terms could cost you credibility, no matter how well-paid your audience, says copywriter Keith Lewis.

Convoluted copy backfires, Lewis says. 

"Far from making you or your company sound intelligent, it alienates audiences. It turns them off, no matter how high up the income chain a potential reader might be."
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