Depending on whom you ask and in what context you ask them, big may be felt to be better. But what about in communication? Does it behove you to utilize colossal or minuscule words when expressing your thoughts in written form? Say what? Should you use big or small words when writing? That’s better.
An online group that I’m in got into a long and sometimes testy discussion about this recently.
Some felt that, as writers, it was their duty to challenge the readers, to force them to look up the writer’s carefully chosen word in a dictionary before the reader can understand the writer and continue to read.
If it worked this way, it would be good. It would lead to a more literate society. However, it rarely works that way. When the reader has to stop and do something, like find a dictionary, to understand what’s being read, the reader’s train of thought is destroyed and he/she quickly loses interest.
And remember – why do we write? To show off our education or our ability to come up with big synonyms for perfectly good small words? Maybe that’s why you write. But most writers write to be read. If their work is not read it is a waste of time.
The topic you’re writing about dictates what words you will use.
If you are writing about some complex medical heart procedure, you will,of course, use words common to that branch of medicine. If you do not, you will not be writing for that client very long. But the average person will not understand half of what you write and that’s OK.
Now, if you are writing a thriller, it will hardly be viewed as a page turner if the reader is forced to the dictionary every page or so. Here you would use short fast words to keep the story moving along at high speed. This type of writing will generally be at the 7th or 8th grade reading level.
Similarly, if you are writing marketing materials, you will write for the audience at which this material is aimed. For most consumer products and many business-to business products or services the writing will again be at the 7/8th grade level. If a consumer or business client can not easily understand what you have written they may move along to the next product or service.
You may feel that executives expect flowery language in marketing materials because of the cost. And some do. However, rarely will an executive or highly educated person object to writing that uses short words and short paragraphs. They like it because they can grasp the concepts quickly without worrying about whether they really understand what’s been written.
So use your judgement and, when in doubt, use short words and paragraphs. Everyone will know what you’re talking about. The KISS principle applies here.