My mother-in-law asked me recently about how a job offer lined up with what I want to do. I told her, "I want to try cases, and this will give me that opportunity." Typically, I would have said "I want to litigate," but I coincidentally used the $5 word instead of the $250 word. Most of the time, I use the $250 word, stultifying [Q.E.D.] my writing. Then, today, I got this:
The goal of all communication is to convey a message. Using the $250 word rarely conveys exactly the message you are trying to convey. If I had told her I wanted to litigate, it would have conveyed the message that I'm a law student reminding her that I'm a law student--and she's not--and that we speak different languages. Instead, plain English conveys the message I really wanted to convey: yes, this job lines up with what I want to do. Most of the time, $250 English probably conveys the message, but with a lot of elitist overtones. The elitism drowns out your intended message, and your attempt at communication fails. Maybe that's what Plain English is about: ensuring that your message gets heard.
This is what I love about blogging: I can practice my writing skills, and you, my faithful readers, can tell your children that you read our generation's Scott Turow when he was just a law student writing a blog.