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Keep your writing plain and simple if you want to look really smart, say experts.

Byline: By SAM BURSON Western Mail

Using long words and fancy lettering will not help you look any more intelligent. Keep your language simple and you will appear to have a higher IQ, new research shows. Readers consider authors and orators eager to look highbrow are less clever, experts warn.

The condemnation of needless long words and florid font styles was yesterday welcomed by plain English campaigners, as well as writing and employment specialists in Wales.

The research involved Dr Daniel Oppenheimer, from New Jersey's Princeton University, giving essays which varied in complexity, to volunteer students to read. He found students rated the intelligence of authors who used simple language and easy-to-read fonts as higher than those who over-egged the prose.

Dr Oppenheimer told the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, 'Anything that makes a text hard to read and understand, such as unnecessarily long words or complicated fonts, will lower readers' evaluations of the text and its author.'

'The continuing popularity amongst students of using big words and attractive font styles may be due to the fact that they may not realise these techniques could backfire. One thing seems certain - write as simply and plainly as possible and it's more likely you'll be thought of as intelligent.'

Matt Swaine, a magazine journalism lecturer at Cardiff University, said people often needlessly used long words because they were worried about looking ignorant. 'It can happen if people are feeling flustered, or they feel they have to impress.

'Instead of just having the confidence to put things simply, they can get carried away with trying to use large words.

'The only reason to use them is if they are better than any other to describe what you are writing about. We tell people to always use one which more people will understand if possible,' he said.

A spokesman for the Campaign for Plain English said, 'Often when people try to appear more clever, more aloof or higher up, they don't succeed, especially if they are using a lot of words which are quite big, but don't make sense.

'It can be harder to write and be understood by everybody than by just a select few.'

Emma Atkinson, 23, a postgraduate journalism student, is now having to disregard writing techniques she picked up on her English degree. Emma, who lives and studies in Cardiff, said, 'A lot of people including myself get used to padding things out, and writing things to length because you need to get a high word count for essays. One thing that's being drummed into us now is to keep things short and simple, so it's a bit like learning to write all over again.'

Keeping it simple also applies when applying for jobs and composing a CV. Penny Bennett, a recruitment consultant from Staffline in Carmarthen, said, 'Using simple language and being concise is what you look for. If someone waffles on for pages, people just lose interest. Be attentive to detail. If you say that you are and then hand in a CV full of spelling and grammatical mistakes you're going to look daft.': Some howlers picked up by the Campaign for Plain English:The former South Wales Electricity Board 'In the event of any failure or malfunctioning of any component of the apparatus which renders the appliance inoperative and necessitates repair before the appliance will work normally, the Board will, at the request of the consumer within a reasonable period and during normal working hours and subject to the conditions and exceptions set out in paragraphs two and three below, repair or replace such components free of charge.'

Meaning If it breaks, we'll fix it.

Part of a letter from Wrexham County Council in 2002 'Every notice issued or sent by the Land Registry must fix a time within which any act or step required by such notice to be done or taken thereunder is to be done or taken, and shall state what will be the consequence of any omission to comply therewith.

Meaning The Land Registry is clear about when you should do something, and what happens if you don't.

Former Wales football manager Bobby Gould, while at Wimbledon (shortened version) 'Preparation for today's game would have been of a professional ideology because ... I must make sure their recovery period makes them as fit as possible ... and that they have no lethargic apprehensions either mentally or physically and ... the preparation for today's match is one that nobody can turn around and say the preparation for this game is not right.'

Meaning - 'We've trained well.'
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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