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Lowest Common Denominator

I’ve been helping out a friend by rewriting some marketing materials for her book that is about to release. On the last go round, she questioned one of my word choices – miscreant – wondering if the “dumber crowd” will understand . . .

Two huge red flags began waving through my head like Enjolras on the barricade had gotten a hold of them. The first red flag was a biggie, the second was a pet peeve. So I asked her about the first and kept the second to myself. I asked her, “Who’s your demographic?” I realized that we had never had this conversation. From what I know of her book, I had come up with my own idea of her audience, which did not include the “dumber crowd.” So if she was indeed marketing to that group, then everything we had done needed to be reworked, not just that word. Her response to demographic could best be described as vague and all-encompassing. In other words, she had no idea. Needless to say, she has some homework to do before we pick back up.

LES MIZ

As for the second red flag, you all get to hear me rant about that. It drives me absolutely bonkers when writers, or anyone for that matter, play down to the lowest common denominator. That’s one of the problems with our society today. We’re so busy making sure everybody understands and fits in that we’re creating a bunch of lazy, half literate complaisants that think seriously is spelled srsly.

My children’s book, which is geared toward pre-k kids is written at a middle school grade level, and guess what? Kids love it, and I have yet to hear a complaint from parents that it’s too difficult. Why? Because kids like learning new things … especially when they rhyme. I won’t dumb down my writing for kids and I won’t do it for adults.

You wanna know why I have such a big vocabulary? Because when I hear or see a word that I don’t know I look it up and learn it. That simple! I know that people get embarrassed and feel stupid when they don’t know a word. However, not knowing the meaning of a word does not make you stupid, and if the person using that word treats you like you are if you ask them for a definition, then that’s on them. Quite frankly they’re probably treating you like that because they don’t really know the definition themselves, are using the word anyway, and you called them out on it, which they find embarrassing.

Admitting that you don’t know something does not make you stupid, nor should you be embarrassed by that. I refuse to dumb down my vocab or my writing so that others can feel like we’re on the same level. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, then we’re not on the same level. Just like I’m not on the same level as people using words or talking about concepts that I don’t know. NOT EVERYONE IS ON THE SAME LEVEL, AND JUST BECAUSE WE’RE NOT ON THE SAME LEVEL DOESN’T MEAN THAT I THINK YOU’RE STUPID!!! Become an active participant in your own education and maybe challenge yourself once in a while. I ask people to explain things all the time. I’m sure it gets really obnoxious because I don’t stop asking questions until I understand. Here’s the magical part, I never feel stupid when I’m asking these questions. I feel stupid when I go along pretending that I know something when in fact I don’t and then get caught.

Stupid is as stupid does, and I have definitely had my fair share of stupid moments. I will not apologize for my vocabulary or the things that I have taken the time to learn and I will not slow down so that you can keep up. I will answer questions til the cows come home and I will learn with you, but I will not slow down. I have often been called an elitist because of this attitude. Well, if that makes me an elitist then I guess I’m an elitist.

Stepping off soap box now.

soapbox

  • MamaKath

    I liked the post and agreed with most of it but considering the content..”So if she was indeed marketing to that group, than everything we had done needed to be reworked…” shouldn’t than be then? Sorry, that’s one of my pet peeves.

    • Kat Michels

      You are absolutely correct, thanks for the catch! I’ll fix it ASAP. 🙂

  • Kele Lampe

    So Much This. I’ve been reading books I loved as a kid, kids’ books written in the late 40s to early 60s, and the difference is astounding. Most of my husband’s high school students couldn’t get through them today.

    • Kat Michels

      That is really sad, but I don’t doubt it in the least.

  • :Donna Marie

    Totally with you. NO dumbing down! 😀