Webster’s Dictionary formally defines “intelligence” as “starting off your writing with a Webster’s definition.” And ever since Mr. Webster started purposely misspelling British words like “colour” and “flavour” without their U’s because it looked weird, we’ve come a long way in pseudo-intellectualism. But if you can’t beat all of the thesaurus-bearers and frequent users of the word “imperative,” you may as well just join them. Here is how you convince your readers that they were in over their heads when they decided to read something you wrote.

Keep it complex

Before you write anything, ask yourself: am I making this too easy for the reader? The goal of your writing should not be to convey any ideas, but to convey nothing in a way that loses readers along the way. Ever try to read something in a different language? Your goal is to recreate that experience for the reader but in English, apart from some sprinkled-in Latin sayings here and there.Maybe throw in an analogy that makes them more confused.  Ever relate split-brain experiments to particle-wave duality? Ever call Michael Jordan the Garry Kasparov of basketball? These comparisons aren’t technically wrong, which means they are fair game in your writing.

As the writer, you specialize in everything

Need to write about law? Medical issues? Quantum mechanics? Don’t let experts steal the spotlight from you — just paraphrase a website you skimmed. Most of the readers won’t be experts, so they won’t know the difference between de facto and de novo or multiple sclerosis and scoliosis, so either one works. Like Schrödinger’s cat, you are both correct and incorrect until someone more knowledgeable reads your work. And in the end, it will only be these experts who disagree with what you write.

Who needs pathos?

Someone must’ve mistranslated Aristotle’s advice on arguments, because it seems like he meant to write “logos” twice. Pathos is a waste of a smart writer’s time.  Avoid talking about the fact your grandpa has multiple sclerosis (a curvature of the spine) when you write about health care. Avoid talking about how heroic a lawyer is for taking a case quid pro bono. It’s just childish stuff. Stick to facts, which last forever.

When in doubt, take the common words out

Replace “imitate” with “emulate” and “red” with “vermillion.” A plenitude of words are overused now, so try to bring words like “dispraise” or “wherefore” out of retirement. Model your vocabulary after Lady Macbeth’s. Become comfortable with using your thesaurus so your reader will become comfortable with their dictionary.

You are smarter than the reader

The pinnacle of sounding like you know what you are writing about is a superiority complex. Who are these readers anyway? What are their qualifications on the topic? You must explain everything to the reader, but not in a helpful way. Get lost or overly abstract on the way. Look at some SAT reading passages for inspiration on how to write. Remember: you are standing on your soapbox so you can look down on everyone else.

In summation

Becoming smart is too hard, but sounding smart works just fine most of the time. Be wary of people asking questions — just refer them to what you’ve written. Become selectively deaf to anybody who does not agree with what you are saying. Just keep writing whatever sounds right to you.

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