“Short words are best, and old words when short are best of all.” — Winston Churchill
Diction is the art of choosing the right word. For product marketers, diction is a core area of study, skill, and practice.
Storytelling, naming, or describing – picking the right words makes a big difference in how your listener or reader’s brain will light up, or not. And what she will remember.
As the very successful persuader/product marketer Churchill said above, shorter is better. But why did he *also* call out old words? Because the older words in English are more often words with Germanic roots — and thus have more power. They hit harder.
German and Latin Roots
The English language is very hard to learn, and even harder to master. Why?
English’s difficulty (but also richness) is because it’s a Germanic language at its root, but has been tremendously changed by Latinate/Romance languages like French, Spanish & Italian. Competing grammars, competing vocabularies. (That’s also why it’s so hard to learn to spell.)
Guess the language root of these words:
Dollar, fear, lead, deal, pick, choose, cut, win, lose, goal, love, key, better, hunger, hit, deep, think, give, take, shift, tool, feed, fast, network, what, why, when, who, how, hard, you, me, rich, now.
Now guess the root of these:
Money, optimize, transform, reduce, concern, objective, primary, contemplate, application, platform, infrastructure, partner, join, uncertain, maneuver, scale, pain.
Putting Diction to Work
Now, this isn’t some party trick in which you learn to speak using only Germanic-rooted English. You’d sound funny, and would miss out on some great words like “pain” and “story”. But when you’re writing, or naming, and working to make it better, look deep, to the roots.
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