Use Simple, Direct Words

Your success is in your simplicity.

By J. L. SHULER, Instructor in Evangelism, S.D. A. Theological Seminary

Too many of us lose sight of a valuable principle on speaking and writing found in Volume V of the "Testimonies :" "Your success is in your simplicity."—Page 667. Some evan­gelists talk over the heads of their audience. They seemingly never use a short word if they can think of a long one. They never resort to a little word if they can muster up a "big" one. I do not depreciate the value of possessing a large vocabulary. That is a fine achievement. A minister should be constantly adding new words to his vocabulary, and he is handicapped if he has to repeat the same word over and over because of his limitations.


It is said that Shakespeare was master of nearly twenty thousand words, and Milton of about thirteen thousand. These are two of the most honored names in English literature. But what about the preacher's Textbook ? I am told that the whole King James Version of the Bible contains only six thousand words—not a half of Milton's vocabulary, nor a third of Shakespeare's. Short words are the strong words; they explode like bullets. The average word in the English Bible, including even proper names, is composed of less than five letters. Leave out the proper names, and the average word would not even have four letters.

In the beloved twenty-third psalm there are 119 words, 95 of which are of only one syllable. In the sermon on the mount, more than 8o per cent are words of but one syllable. In the Eng­lish translation of the ten commandments, on which are based all law, there are 319 words, of which 259 are words of one syllable, and only 6o are of two or more syllables. In Lin­coln's Gettysburg Address, one of the greatest orations ever given, there are 266 words. Of .these, 194 words are of but one syllable, 53 of two syllables, and only 59 of three or more syllables. Food for thought is contained in these figures. Will not our discourses accom­plish more if our words are on the order of these immortal documents? We read:

"Jesus did not use long and difficult words in His discourses ; He used plain language, adapted to the minds of the common people. He went no farther into the subject He was expounding than they were able to follow Him."—"Gospel Workers," p. 169.

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By J. L. SHULER, Instructor in Evangelism, S.D. A. Theological Seminary

October 1941

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