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If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do. My Princeton colleague Danny Oppenheimer refuted a myth prevalent among undergraduates about the vocabulary that professors find most impressive. In an article titled “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly,” he showed that couching familiar ideas in pretentious language is taken as a sign of poor intelligence and low credibility.

-Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

Much like the study cited in the above quote, showing how much you’ve retained from your SAT prep work will not impress the reader of your script. It’s not about prose writing vs. screenwriting, or cluttering the page with unnecessary description, or slowing down the speed of the read.

It’s about showing that you are confident as a writer.

This isn’t an argument for writing simplistically. A screenplay should read well above a first grade level. Sometimes there is no better word for what you are trying to say than the complex, specific one. It’s important to be able to make the distinction and be able to know when to bring in those words out of necessity.

Writing plainly shows that you’re confident that your story is interesting and dynamic without having to pretty up the page with purple prose, that you are efficient and clear in your thoughts, and that you’re aware of how to best communicate what’s in your mind. You believe that your story, not your vocabulary, will convince the reader to take you seriously as a writer.

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