Why You Should Make Four Letter Words Your Friends
by Cassie Arnold
We all love our terms of art. The define us as part of a group, and they establish our professional credentials. What they don’t do is facilitate effective communications.
Speechwriters know that the most effective way to communicate or persuade is through the use of Anglo-Saxon words – the infamous four letter words. When we are startled or alarmed, many of us revert to those four letter words our mothers warned us about because their meaning is immediately understood by all within earshot.
The same holds true for four letter words that are not curses. These Anglo-Saxon words are among those native English speakers learn from their family, as opposed to the Latin-base words we start to learn when we enter school. These words are more emotive and the mind processes them quicker. Think of the difference between the Anglo-Saxon word home and the Latin word domicile.
Professionals often argue with me that using small words in their communications has the effect of dumbing down the message and insulting the intelligence of their audience. When President Kennedy famously launched the Apollo program, he did not say “we will deposit homo sapiens on the orbiting celestial object”. He said, “we will put a man on the moon”. Not a word more than four letters and immediately understandable.
And phrases made up of Anglo-Saxon words are memorable. From “We hold these truths to be self-evident” to “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” to “Tear down this wall”, messages made up of four letter words survive the test of time. So next time you want to get an important message across, put aside your industry jargon and turn to your friends -- the four letter words.
- Run your article or blog through an online language checker. With these tools you are aiming for an 8th grade level.
- Ask a friend in another industry to read your copy to ensure it’s jargon-free.
- Ask yourself: Would my mother understand this?