Pardon my language, but I’m going to go with Mark Twain on this one:
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you are inclined to write ‘very’; your editor would delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
If only we would stop over exaggerating and write as we should.
Robin Wauters wrote an article I read recently about this very issue. It called for ten overused words to be banned from press releases, including “leading,” “innovation,” and “revolutionary.” The point is that when we overuse and misuse these words consistently, they loose their meaning—completely counteracting your purpose as a writer.
The purpose of any writer—whether PR or journalism—is to make information understood by your audience. And when our words loose their meaning, so does that information.
So how then do we write in a way that is exciting and engaging without overusing and abusing words?
Know your audience. Writing to your audience both defines your content and vocabulary, which, incidentally enough, solves both problems. If your content is applicable to your reader, then you get an engaged reader. If your write to your reader’s comprehension level, then you get an engaged reader. It’s simple—nothing your write will be successful if you don’t understand your audience.
If you think you are writing simply, write simpler. This is preaching to myself as much as anyone. As writers, let’s be honest. We can get a big head. We love words. We love big words. And we want to share those words as much as possible. This is the problem though—not very many other people care about the nuances the between facetious and frivolous. But a lot of people can find it in their heart to care about the difference between inappropriate and lighthearted.
Remember your purpose. Basically, the point is simple: you are writing to get your message across. Put aside your own agenda and awesome writing ability, and channel “the reader.”
Which, by the way, is much more difficult that writing for yourself.