fustian adj., pretentious
Aren’t you glad I didn’t pick floccinaucinihilipilification for this installment? Me too.
It would have worked well for this little post on pretentious writing!
As a freelance writer, you probably already know the gist of the rule here: Unless you have a darn good reason, don’t use a word people need to look up in the dictionary when one they already know will suffice.
They way I see it, it’s a courtesy to your readers to cut out the
esoteric obscure junk. Imagine your magazine article or blog post is a path. If you write well, the path is free and easy and helpful. If you don’t write well, the path becomes riddled with irritants and obstacles.
A missing comma slows the traveler down. A misspelled word causes the traveler to loser her balance.
A pretentious word? Well, that’s worse. That’s not just some unwitting hiccup in the textual landscape; that’s stringing some invisible fishing line across the path with the intention of watching the reader trip and land nose-first in the dirt.
I can see their metaphorical eyes pleading why?
And you? You just point, laugh, and talk about how you learned that word in fifth grade, duh!
Pretentious writing is off-putting. So people who want readers should shy away from it.
In his post “Seven Easy Steps to Pretentious Writing,” Michale Offut pokes a little fun at snobbish writing in general, turning a simple favorite into a laughable monstrosity of a poem.
It’s a brilliant way to drive the point home, isn’t it? I think we should all give it a go! In the comments write your own example or take a moment to turn the following sentence into something absurdly pretentious:
Jeremy went to the store to buy a loaf of bread, but the cashier said they were out.