I like big words. They make me sound smart.
This has affected my writing to a great extent. I’ve felt compelled to show off my knowledge by using words that would have people diving for the nearest thesaurus. It’s something that has often affected my speech as well; I do sometimes get quizzical looks, or a ‘What did you say?’ because it’s more important for me to strut around like a linguistic peacock than have an actual conversation.
A few years ago, I came across another useful writing axiom, once again attributed to ‘anonymous’: Never use a 5-dollar word where a 50-cent word would suffice. You are, of course, free to use the currency of your choice in that metaphor. That really made me re-evaluate my descriptive writing, and pay closer attention to how my favorite authors use descriptions.
It’s tempting to describe someone’s eyes as ‘azure’ or ‘cerulean’, but I could just as easily say that they were the ‘deepest blue, as if vast oceans were hidden behind them’. It’s a much simpler use of words, but it creates an image for the reader without causing any confusion. Now, reading’s a great way to increase your vocabulary without a doubt, but it detracts from the experience if you have to consult a dictionary every sentence. If a character’s eyes are really that exotic, sure, I’ll throw out ‘azure’. But just describing a pair of blue eyes? No need to get so fancy.
Ultimately, you want to take the reader on a journey. Try to minimize the bumps along the road.