Don’t Be a Sesquipedalian

Don’t Be a Sesquipedalian

Given to or characterized by the use of long words.

I have to admit that sesquipedalian is one of my favorite words. From the Latin, it means, literally, someone who uses words that are a foot-and-a-half long. Cool word? Yes. But actually being a sesquipedalian is not something that’s recommended in standard business writing. Here are some examples to illustrate this point.

Business correspondence:
Here’s how a sesquipedalian might respond to a customer inquiry:

Dear Mrs. So-and-so:

Our esteemed office has become cognizant of the investigative matter detailed in your recent querulous epistle. We find your assertions to be ipse dixit, and, as such, are compelled to dismiss them pejoratively.

We remain,
The Hoity-Toity Firm of Greater Metropolis

Lovely. Will the customer who wrote to this company ever return to them? Unlikely. But consider how a non-sesquipedalian writer might have responded to the same customer inquiry:

Dear Mrs. So-and-so:

Thank you for your recent inquiry; we appreciate your business.

Regarding the matter you raised, we would like to help. To do so, however, we require the following information:

  • Document A
  • Document B

As soon as we receive this information, we will be happy to process your claim.

Thanks again for choosing our company.

The Regular Folks Firm of Anytown, USA

Interoffice memo:
Better, huh? Now, let’s look at another example.

Arthur A. Sesquipedalian requests the presence of yourselves, each and every, at the corporate office meeting at precisely 2:30 in this very afternoon, upon the 16th day of the month of March in the year 2007, in which divers interrogative postulations will be addressed and a plethora of sundry company-related matters of significant import will be expeditiously assessed.

Oh boy—can’t wait to attend that meeting. But what if the memo read like this:

Please come to the office meeting today (March 16) at 2:30 p.m. We’re going to discuss the various issues that many of you have recently raised; with everyone’s input, we should be able to put together some solutions. Look forward to seeing you there.

Norm Normal

Well, I’m not crazy about meetings, but I’d probably show up at this one.

So, in conclusion, don’t be a sesquipedalian—it would not behoove one to so be.