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Will using hard words in English make me sound smarter?

August 13, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

There isn’t exactly any particular word you should know to sound more intelligent. In fact, using hard words in English doesn’t automatically make you sound smarter.




But… it depends on whom you’re talking to and what the context is.

A lot of people assume that if you use these big, difficult-sounding, sophisticated, complex, flowery words in English… people will think you’re an intelligent person.

Not really. That’s just not the case.

Let me put it this way:

There’s this book I’ve read written by a guy named Ammon Shea. So, in his book, he said that he read the ENTIRE Oxford English Dictionary (the huge multi-volume ones, mind you) which took him a whole year. And by now you’re probably thinking “Oh, his English might have improved then.” But no, not really. In fact, he concluded that reading the entire Oxford English Dictionary was a total waste of time. All it did was give himself a headache… and learn words that he’ll probably never even use.

And it’s the same when you try to use hard words in all your conversations. And when you insist to use these hard words (even if there’s no need to use them)… then you’ll just end up confusing the person you’re talking to.

See, a true advanced English speaker is somebody who can use English very flexibly, regardless of how complicated the word is. What I mean by this is if you use hard, very complex English words, you’d have to use them in a way that will make sense. But if you communicate things in a very simple way, you’ll sound far more intelligent.

Again, you always have to think about whom you’re talking to. And if what you’re saying will make sense to them.

An example of this is if I use the word “chunk” with my (now ex) PhD supervisor. I won’t use the word “chunk” with her because it’s just too vague. Instead, I’ll use more specific words like “lexical bundles” because it would make much more sense to her. But again, this is because I’m talking to her regarding an academic topic.

Whereas if I’m talking to my coaching clients, I will use the word “chunks” because it would make more sense to them. And they’d know exactly what I was talking about.

Again, it depends on the person you’re talking to and what you’re actually talking about.

By the way, speaking of “chunks”.

If you’re looking to speak clearer, more natural-sounding English learning to chunk your speech well will make you sound much, much more intelligent than simply filling your sentences with fancy words. That’s why I made this free guide to teach you how to do this.

Hope that helps.

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


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