K.I.S.S. your readers

August 6, 2014   Tags: , , , , 🕑 3 minutes read

Big words suck.  Gargantuan expressions fail to fulfill your readership’s expectations.  See how small words win the day?

Have you ever felt the need to use big words to sound more important or authoritative, or just to fill up space? Big words usually just make you sound pompous, at best. At worst, you make your text more challenging to read, and people do exactly what you might expect; they stop reading. Your writing should be as easy-flowing as possible. You should use the simplest words possible.

K.I.S.S.  stands for “Keep it simple, stupid.”  You want to K.I.S.S. your readers.

K.I.S.S. your readers

This is a problem our manuscript editors often encounter: sesquipedalian words where simple words would do.

Let’s look at a few commonly overused words that should be replaced with simpler ones.

UTILIZE. Wow, just three syllables to replace one. Honestly, have you ever heard anyone utilize this word in real life, like in the bleachers or at the movies or at the coffee shop?

“Hang on, I’ll be right there as soon as I utilize the washroom.”

“Should we utilize pepper in the stir fry?”

“He was just being my friend because I had box seats at the arena. I feel so utilized.”

“Aaargh! All the best utilizer names on Twitter are already taken.”

Yes, there is a much simpler word to use: use. And “use” is a fine word, even if it doesn’t sound pretentious.

ACCOMPLISH. Do you often accomplish things? OK, maybe. But “achieve” still flows off the tongue easier. And “do” flows easier still. Most of the time, I don’t accomplish things. I just do them, and then they are done.  And then I’m done with it (I don’t want to be accomplished with it, just done with it.).

PURCHASE. More pretentiousness, perhaps? I buy things, I don’t purchase them. How about you? Why the extra syllable? Because some advertisers think you will spend more money if you purchase than if you buy? Or because they don’t want you to feel pressured into buying things. Instead they pressure you into purchasing things. Makes perfect sense to me.

Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious!
If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious “


ACTUALLY.  This is an amazing word, because most of the time it can be replaced with nothing at all – and not lose any of its meaning!  For instance…

I actually have twenty dollars.

I have twenty dollars.

What does that actually mean?

What does that mean?

I’m actually quite amazing.

I’m quite amazing.

See?  Four syllables replaced by none.  Just like magic. Let’s see Harry Potter do better.

ACQUIRE. This is the word that inspired this article. I had read the following message that was posted on the Warrior Forum :

In one of my titles, I had a confusion of whether to use “get customers” or “acquire customers”.

The former is simple but the later looks more sophisticated.

Google Search Says:

“acquire customers” 283,000 results
“get customers” 1,500,000 results!

So now the choice is obvious. I don’t want to look sophisticated. I just want to CONNECT with the readers with the right titles.

“Acquire” is another laughable word that people just don’t use in normal conversation. Can you imagine…

“Mommy, please can I acquire another toy.”

“I hear ringing. Can you please acquire the phone?”

“I need to acquire some new glasses.  My eyesight isn’t what it used to be.”

And everybody loves that classic song: I’ve Acquired Rhythm.

Whether you are writing a book, an article, a press release or a blog post, your goal should be to connect with your readers. K.I.S.S. your readers. Use their language. Unless you are writing a sales page for an expand-your-vocabulary course, you should almost always use the simplest word possible. Or to put it more bluntly, use the world with the least syllables.

Don’t utilize the littler word. Use the smaller word.

PS: If you find this challenging, let our professional writers KISS your readers for you.

Hire a ghostwriter

About David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, a published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt

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  1. Mathew W Weaver says:
    at 3:02 pm

    Okay, this was a great post! Um… do I sound unbearably presumptuous if instead of the simpler ‘funny’, I invariably pursue the utilization of a far more resounding compliment, say, ‘hilarious’?

    Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. Hilarious post, though, and pretty useful, too. Now thanks to you, I’m honor bound to go back and look through all 53 of my posts to see how many words I constantly use fit the gargantuan criteria….

    • David Leonhardt says:
      at 3:15 pm

      lol Everybody uses some longer words; nothing wrong with that. But some people use lots of them, and a few longer words, like “utilize”, are almost never better than the shorter option.

  2. shay cb says:
    at 6:36 pm

    I do not know what to comment for I am guilty of looking for uncommonly used words to post in my blog, lol.

  3. Reginald says:
    at 1:15 am

    Hey David!

    When I first read KISS your readers, I was like “What?”

    Overall, super entertaining article and sardine packed with information! Keep it up and thanks for sharing man!

    *PS How are you?

  4. Emmanuel says:
    at 10:24 am

    When I found this, I was like wow, what is David up to by telling us to kiss our readers. Hahaha!
    What did you the acronym K.I.S.S stands for? Keep it Simple, Stupid! Hahaha!

    And I totally do agree with you. It is funny seeing all those gargantuan words forcing us refer to the dictionaries all in the name of looking for meanings when other simple words can do.

    This was a fun filled post and worth every minute spent reading. Thank you and I found this post of yours shared on kingged.com

  5. Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA @ Cerpebrations.biz says:
    at 10:41 am

    Here comes the contrary view.
    Perhaps, those words are/were chosen because the author (or speaker) actually has incorporated them into their vernacular. Knowing there IS a difference between buying and purchasing, for example. Many of us buy this and that, but purchasing them means we are obtaining these items or skills and incorporating the item or skill into our daily lives.
    We “use” resources, often without regard to their utility elsewhere or the trade-offs made. Utilizing them means we are obtaining a higher value from the item than if we were to just use them.
    I’m just saying…

  6. Lawrence Berry says:
    at 8:19 pm

    Hi David,

    I think this is some good advice. Simplicity is the way to go. You want your content to be very readable, because anything that does not flow well can turn the reader off. Most people don’t read ALL of what is written in a post, so why complicate it? K.I.S.S should be used, not only in your writing, but in your life!


  7. Rohan Bhardwaj says:
    at 8:28 pm


    You have explained the importance of simple words nicely. In blog, one should write naturally and hard words shouldn’t be forced onto post.

    The average reader online is not that smart to understand hard words. One need to keep it simple and straight. Like you said, KISS your readers.

    For me, I just write like the way I would talk with my friend, simple and straight to the point and it works very well. Useful post.

    P.S. I found this post on Kingged.

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