Why shorter words are better than longer words (a short guide)

You'll find longer, more complicated words in all sorts of content online, from whitepapers and thought leadership pieces to sales pages and emails – words like leverage, utilise, component and additional.

The problem with these words is that they’re not muchgood to anyone – not you, your business, your readers or your customers. So, get rid and start using shorter words instead. Here’s why.

Shorter words are easy to read and understand

Take a look at the following:

Work on a new report looking into the benefits of artificial intelligence in SEO will commence next week.

Now, arguably, this isn’t too bad a sentence. There’s enough information around the word commence for it to make sense. But look what happens when we replace it with the word start:

Work on a new report looking into the benefits of artificial intelligence in SEO will start next week.

That small change, from a more imprecise word to a more obvious one, has improved the copy significantly. It’s now even easier to read and understand, leaving no real room for misunderstanding.

And that’s the secret to good and effective content – keeping things simple.

Longer words aren’t doing you any favours

Compared to shorter words, longer words tend to be less familiar to people. That’s because they introduce more ambiguity and they don’t roll off the tip of your tongue all that well either.

Here’s an example:

If you don’t have the bandwidth to implement those SEO proposals in-house, our team of experts can support you.

The band what? Width? Come again? Because bandwidth is not a word used in everyday conversation, it’s open to being misinterpreted. And it’s always going to be harder for people to intuitively understand.

So, do your readers a favour and swap it out for something more concrete:

If you don’t have the ability to implement those SEO proposals in-house, our team of experts can support you.

Much better, right? That’s because the ambiguity has now gone and the information can be absorbed far more quickly. Your audience will not need to reread the sentence to figure out what is being said.

Other downsides to longer words

There are additional pitfalls to using longer, more complicated words – they can make you sound pompous, far from relatable and inauthentic.

And they definitely won’t make you sound authoritative or smart. In fact, there’s research out there that suggests it’ll do the opposite.

What will make you sound like you know what you’re talking about is clarity, concision and substance – the ability to demonstrate the depth of your expertise in a crisp and accessible way.

You don’t need to impress anyone with big words. Just use short words well and that will come naturally.

Shorter words to use in place of longer words

To get you thinking more about swapping out longer words for shorter words, we’ve gathered a few examples below:

  • Advantageous ❌
  • Helpful ✅
  • Additional ❌
  • Extra ✅
  • Component ❌
  • Part ✅
  • Frequently ❌
  • Often ✅
  • Numerous ❌
  • Many ✅
  • Leverage ❌
  • Use ✅
  • Modify ❌
  • Change ✅
  • Prior to ❌
  • Before ✅
  • Remainder ❌
  • Rest ✅
  • Visualise ❌
  • See ✅

A final word

The best kind of content doesn’t try too hard. It says things as they are and in a way that most people can understand (and without them feeling like they have to work for it, too).

A key part of that kind of winning content is short words. And when used effectively and in place of longer words, they can transform your copy, your business and the customer experience tremendously.

If you’re looking to add a bit of spark to your content, drop us a line. We can help you develop editorial guidelines, review your blog, landing pages and email sequences, and we can write copy that delivers more traffic, engagement, sales and more.

For other writing tips, check out the articles below:

Acknowledgements: A big thank you to Rich Kimber whose handy, internal writing tips helped inspire this series.

Other Posts

All Posts