Writing for Business

Jul 16 2012   9:26AM GMT

Simplified vs. simplistic

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
The book “Virtualization for Dummies” provides a ___________ explanation of virtualization that helps readers achieve a basic level of understanding.
a. simplified
b. simplistic

Answer: a.

“Simplified” means made more simple. Which is definitely what you want in a “Dummies” book on virtualization, because the idea of having to learn even the essentials has been known to make grown CEOs weep.

“Simplistic,” on the other hand, means overly simplified. If we said the book provided a simplistic explanation of virtualization, the implication would be that the text was lacking important information or was too basic to be useful. On that note, let’s also resolve that we don’t have to say anything is overly simplistic — you’ve already gone too far if something is simplistic.

In his post on simple and simplistic, Richard Norquist explains why people might tend to use the latter:

“Because simplistic is the longer and more academic-looking word, it’s sometimes misguidedly chosen by those who want to make their words more impressive.”

Aha. And there really is very little that makes someone look LESS impressive, intelligence-wise, than making errors when they’re trying to show off.

Nordquist quotes Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Amen. After all, ’tis a gift to be simple — but no one ever said ’twas a gift to be simplistic.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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