24 Apr 2009
When it comes to business writing or copywriting, it’s always better to use Anglo Saxon words rather than Latin words. But why are Anglo Saxon words better? And how can we tell the difference?
To find out, let’s take a brief look at the history of the English language.
What have the Romans ever done for us?
Latin words have been around in England since the days of the Roman Empire. But things started hotting up when the Anglo Saxons arrived in the 5th Century bringing their Germanic based language with them.
The French invasion. Mon Dieu
A mixture of Latin and Anglo Saxon words, known as Old English, were used until the Norman Conquest in 1066, when a flood of French words came into the English language and were used by the aristocracy and well-educated. Of course, French itself is derived from Latin, and the English language became a mixture of French words like barber, tailor, butcher, mason, and carpenter, and down to earth Anglo Saxon words like beard, hair, cloth, meat, stone and wood.
Et cetera, et cetera
During the Middle Ages, many scientific, scholarly and legal terms were borrowed from Latin. And by the 17th and 18th centuries, scholars and intellectuals, wishing to improve the English language, created new English words from Latin words such as fraternity, from the Latin fraternitas, an improvement, they thought, on the Anglo Saxon brotherhood.
So why choose Anglo Saxon words over Latin? They seem a bit crude compared to the flowery elegance of Latin derived words. Well they are. But Anglo Saxon words also tend to be shorter, punchier and more direct; whereas Latin words tend to be longer and more abstract.
I’m not saying strip your writing of Latin words altogether. But if you’re writing a business letter or sales copy, and you need to get to your point across as quickly and as easily as possible, Anglo Saxon is the way to go.
Some Latin derived words and their simpler alternatives
Adamant – firm
Adjacent – near
Ascertain – to find out
Capacious – large
Collaborate – work together
Contemplative – thoughtful
Equitable – just, fair
Incognito – disguised
Loquacious – talkative
Novel – new and unusual
Pallid – pale
Parsimonious – thrifty
Penchant – like
Pernicious – causing great harm
Some Anglo Saxon words that have been around a while
Almost, All, And, As, At
For, From, Friendly
Middle, More, Most
Was, Were, Word