Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 247) – Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens / Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) American Author and Humorist

“Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.

— Mark Twain


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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4 Responses to Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 247) – Mark Twain

  1. Love the quote! Especially because I’ve never been good with “big” words when speaking.

  2. I strongly agree! I also try to avoid weak verbs, which are rife in business. My pet hate’s the verb “drive” (as in “drive customer retention” and the like). People use that because it sounds dynamic and macho, but I hate it because it’s usually paired with another verb (disguised as a noun), which makes “drive” useless.

    For instance, in “drive customer retention”, the verb “retain” has been dressed up as the noun “retention”. So the verb “drive” is redundant, and the phrase could be more simply expressed as “retain customers” – or in plain language, just “keep customers”. As I say, that’s not as “sexy”, but it’s so much more direct, having replaced a fairly complex 4-syllable concept (“drive retention”) with a 1-syllable action (“keep”).

    Rant over! (P.S. For an excellent discussion of weak verbs, and how to “drive them out”, see this post on the Good Copy, Bad Copy blog.)

    • John Zimmer says:

      All good stuff, Craig and I enjoyed the link that you shared. I have seen police officers in court say things like “The suspect exited the vehicle and proceeded on foot to the building.” Why not just say, “The suspect got out of the car and ran to the building.”?

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