A Princeton Research Paper (I’m hoping the title of the paper is ironic) found that a majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence.

The paper also found that the strategy usually backfires as most readers said that they associated complexity of vocabulary or presentation with less intelligent authors!

Preachers, teachers, and students, take note!

As Albert Einstein said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

  • http://www.gracenevada.com Brian Borgman

    OK, I guess I will risk a comment David! My first thought was, “I suppose there is a difference between someone with a legitimately broad vocabulary and one who is using big (almost said polysyllabic) words to appear intelligent.” I think simplicity in preaching does not necessarily exclude the explanation and use of some technical vocabulary.

  • http://rpmministries.org Bob Kellemen

    I loved their title and sub-title. Clearly illustrating what not to do (title) and what to do (sub-title). As a professor who grades scores and scores of graduate-papers, I’ve seen this, too. Often, the more wordy and flowery the student’s language, the less intelligible the paper. Of course, any of us in academia are guilty of this at times also…

  • http://www.scripturezealot.com ScriptureZealot

    I always thought John Owen sounded kind of dumb.

    • http://rpmministries.org Bob Kellemen

      Jeff, The Puritan writers could have used some good Puritan editors. Bob

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  • http://reformedreactions.blogspot.com Jim Pemberton

    1. If Albert Einstein is correct then most Christians would have to conclude that God doesn’t understand the trinity. We don’t expect toddlers to understand calculus. The simplicity of explanation is relative to the capability of the student.

    2. There is a difference between attempting to appear intelligent by using terms that sound intelligent and actually commanding an exceptional vocabulary.

    3. Vis #2, it’s likely that most people can viscerally sense the difference.

    4. #3 aside, enough people cannot tell the difference such that using efficient terms effectively is not possible in most cases.

    5. Therefore, while an exceptional vocabulary is helpful for understanding the publications of very intelligent and well-studied people, it’s value is mitigated by the necessity of garnering favor among average people.