I’ve sat through many a critique where a manuscript has to be decoded. One of the women I used to share a critique group with would regularly use words that most of us would have to look up in the dictionary. When she was told that other more ordinary words would do because her erudition tended to stop the flow, she would argue (a critique no-no, you don’t have to agree, but you should listen. Chances are if two or more are telling you the same thing, it’s true.)
Don’t get me wrong. The right word choice is important. I have spent more time than I want to think of searching for the exact word in a sentence that no one but me will ever pause over. And in point of fact, sometimes only a big word will do–such as using the word erudition above. But you don’t ever want to use so many that people have to stop and try to figure out what the heck you’re saying.
The best example of this that I know of comes from the good ole’ USA’s IRS. Let me show you just one sample and we’ll see if you don’t agree. This is taken from the instructions for form 8903 which is for the Domestic Production Activity Deduction which is a deduction that many small businesses could take if they only knew about it, and could decipher it.
Purpose of Form
Use Form 8903 to figure your domestic production activities deduction (DPAD).
Your DPAD is generally 6% of the smaller of:
1. Your qualified production activities income (QPAI), or
2. Your adjusted gross income for an individual, estate, or trust (taxable income for all other taxpayers) figured without the DPAD.
This garbage goes on and on for several more pages and I figure by this time you have totally zoned out Here is my re-write
Form 8903 Made in America Deduction
Use this form to figure your deduction for anything you and your employees made in America. No employees? Sorry, this deduction isn’t for you. Otherwise anything from construction to farming counts as long as–catch this–you made it in the good old USA. So please, take out any income that comes from foreign soil or that has nothing to do with production (In other words, accounting, legal work, writing etc.) Hey, engineering, drafting and architectural firms–your work counts. You can take this deduction.
Multiply this income by 6%.
Okay, this is an extreme example and one that most of us don’t come across often. But too many of us want to impress with our vocabulary. If that’s you, my advice is to become a contestant on Jeopardy or something. Leave the big words to…well to the IRS.
Christine Duncan is the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series. Book two of series, Safe House is now available. Christine did apply to the IRS last year but was turned down flat. Apparently she doesn’t use enough big words.