I’ve worked for businesses before that were utterly obsessed with the Flesch-Kinkaid reading scale, which measures how many “big words” and “big sentences” you use throughout your copy.
Whatever you wrote, you were supposed to make it understandable for seventh-graders, as if your readers weren’t grownups making grownup decisions.
I remember hating the concept in college, since Flesch-Kinkaid is just too simplistic in my opinion: a one-size-fits-all model that misses the point just as often as it makes it. And I went on to hate it even more as a professional.
The way I came to view it, the method was insulting to readers and made extra work for writers, who had to tailor grownup subjects with grownup terminology to supposedly ideal grade-school mentalities.
But as obnoxious as that technique is, that’s not the best way to turn off readers. It’s more just a great way to give your employees extra work for no good reason.
If you really want to make your audience give up on you, you have to do the exact opposite: Use lots and lots of big words. Preferably in the same sentence.
That aberration from the common nomenclature will efficaciously precipitate your readers’ departures.
In other words, people are going to have no idea what you’re saying, so they’re going to leave. Probably for good too, since you’re making no sense to them and they’re going to expect you to continue making no sense.
Goodbye reader and potential client!
Nor do you have to use such extremely big words to get the same effect. You can use a bunch of more commonly understood multisyllabic choices with the same results.
So instead of saying, “This statement is meant to make my point,” you could put it like this, “The declaration before you is intended to generate the particular conclusion that my stated estimation is accurate.”
Now, none of those bigger words are star-spelling-bee vocabulary choices. I mean, we’re not exactly speaking rocket-science jargon here. Most people know what declaration means by itself, and the same goes for intended, generate, particular, conclusion, stated, estimation and accurate.
But throw all of them together into one sentence, and it just becomes a tedious mess to read through.
To borrow the popular 2012 saying, ain’t nobody got time for dat!
No really. They don’t.
Not these days, where everyone’s attention span keeps getting shorter and shorter, and our list of distractions keep getting bigger and bigger. So if it’s going to take more than a second to understand a sentence, the vast majority of readers will move on to something that’s easier to swallow.
With that said, there’s still one last level of turn-off-ability that you can rely on here. If you happen to have any readers left who are able to understand you and who are willing to put the time in to learn something new, your big words still have one last way of repelling people…
You’re going to sound like a snob.
People don’t like snobs. They like confident leaders and experts, but they don’t like arrogant ones. And when you use a lot of big words all in a row, you sound like you’re more interested in building yourself up than anyone else.
That’s hardly attractive.
If you have any readers left after that, then I’m at a loss as to how to lose them. You’re on your own from here!
Editor’s Note: And yet you can still use more big words and sentences than Flesch-Kinkaid allows for seventh graders. I promise.