Simple or Simplistic?

“I am very frustrated with my team. These guys can never find a simplistic solution to any problem” moaned someone I met recently at a large dinner party.

Why would anyone want a simplistic solution to anything? Simple is good, simplistic is not.

I am amazed at the number of people who do not understand the distinction between these two words. We are in an age where jargon is considered a sign of knowledge. If you can substitute any word with something longer, more important sounding or vague you are improving your message.

Therefore simplistic sounds a lot better than simple, and those who do not understand the distinction gladly choose the longer word.

Dictionaries will tell you that simplistic means to oversimplify complex problems, to make unrealistically simple judgements or analyses, to be naive. In short simplistic is a derogatory term.

On the other hand, simple is good. Here’s what Steve Jobs said about simple:

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

So remember this: simple is a virtue, simplistic is not. Simple is a desirable goal, simplistic is something you want to stay away from.

Simple, right?

One comment on “Simple or Simplistic?
  1. suhas khandekar says:

    I would like to add that a distinction should be made between what kind of words should be used when you are speaking and when you are writing. While speaking it is better to use simple language, because if the listener does not know the word, there is no time for him to look for the meaning in a dictionary,and he could miss the point. However, things are different when you are writing.In English language, even the synonyms of a word do not have exactly the same meaning. While writing you can choose the most appropriate (and not apt) words, which convey exactly what you have to say.
    Using complex words while speaking has its own pitfalls. I have seen people use the word “emphathatically” to add additional emphasis.

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