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Two Big Words I Used in an Article

Today I used the words perspicacious and salutary in my monthly newsletter article. Do you know what they mean?

Test yourself: Answer the two multiple-choice questions below.

Perspicacious means (a) of a lesser quality, (b) clear-sighted, (3) extremely curious.

Salutary means (a) good for one's health, (b) remedial, (3) wholesome.

Are you certain of your answers?





The first answer should be "clear-sighted." Another definition of perspicacious is "having or showing penetrating mental discernment."

The second multiple-choice question was a trick. All three answers are correct definitions of salutary.

Can you guess why I used challenging words in a newsletter article on business writing?

It was to show the kinds of words not to use!

As I emphasize in business writing courses, if people are not sure about the meanings of the words you use, you will lose them. Here is the related tip from the article:

Avoid using big words to impress readers. Use the simple aware rather than cognizant, extra rather than superfluous, and unique rather than inimitable. When you use words that are more complex than necessary, you lose readers. Remember that people read your messages for content, not for vocabulary enrichment.

You can subscribe free to my monthly newsletter, Better Writing at Work.

Would you like to challenge us with a multiple-choice vocabulary question? Feel free!

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

4 comments on “Two Big Words I Used in an Article”

  • I completely agree that big words do not impress readers but confuse them. People do not walk around with a dictionary. Thus, they cannot to look up every word they are not familiar with. At the same time, people do not want and do not like to feel stupid. Big words do make people feel silly, especially when because of them it takes longer to understand the message. However, I think, it all depends on the audience one is writing for.

  • Hi, Anna. Thanks for sharing your views.

    Speaking of audience, I know very few people who read work documents to develop their vocabulary. They all speak English as a foreign language, and they are looking for the appropriate words to use in their own messages. I suggest that we communicate effectively with them and with all our readers by using clear, accurate words.

    I recommend saving interesting words for our use with friends and in poems, novels, letters, and essays.


  • Hi Lynn,

    I think people who are self-conscious tend to use large words to impress others.

    Freud’s writing are an excellent example of good, effective writing.

    Whereas Jung…

    Great site, btw.


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