And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
- Matthew 6:7-8
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
- 2 Timothy 2:14-16
I recently spent two and a half weeks with my younger son and his family. On the first evening, after driving from Pennsylvania to Tennessee all in one day – not seeming to be that long when you gain an hour – our six-year-old grandson made some bold claim that “I can do that as well.” Wherever he gets his bold self-reliance is a problem they may face the rest of the family’s lives. He is determined to do anything and everything and he thinks he is the master before he has ever tried it. Just ask him about walking on the surface of Mars, and he will pipe up, “I can do that.” And he might just run out the front door in search of Mars, not knowing that it is a planet far away. The family needs a lot of prayers over that issue, but the topic of this post is the “as well.”
Over the two and a half weeks, I heard “as well” from their mother and all three grandchildren. I never heard “too.” I never heard “also.” It amused me, at first, but I wonder what the sinister reason behind this odd choice of words was.
Since it seemed to stem from our daughter-in-law, I made a statement that the children should be allowed to use other words, even encouraged to use such words as “also” or “too.” She immediately got snippy about the confusion of whether you are talking about “T-W-O, T-O-O, OR T-O!!!!!!!!”
I admit, a sloppy sentence structure that ends in the word “to” is compounded with error by adding “too.” As in, “The children are going to a bag pipe performance in the square. And afterwards, the smoothie shop is always gone to, too.” They could say “Afterwards, we go to the smoothie shop too.”
No, no, no!! It must be “as well.”
From the two Scriptures, the first, part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, warns us against wordy prayers. The use of “as well” is two words. “Also” is one word but two syllables. “Too” would be the best choice in technical writing, one word, one syllable. Technical writing involves a lot of polysyllabic words. Try using ethylene and propylene in every other sentence of a paragraph. If the sentence is long and has many polysyllabic words in it, it becomes difficult to read. Thus, “also” or “too” should be used – less words.
The avoidance of polysyllabic words, those words of three syllables or more, is paramount in ensuring the readability and understanding of what you have written but teaching someone to avoid polysyllabic words is difficult in that polysyllabic is a polysyllabic word in and of itself.
The previous paragraph has a Flesch Kincaid reading grade level of 23.9, one sentence with 45 words and a lot of polysyllabic words. Let’s see. Twelve years gets you through high school. Another four years gets you through college, if you knuckle down. Another two or three hard years gets you a masters. We are possibly talking about post-doctorate education to make the sentence in the previous paragraph easy to read. That does not mean that an average reader cannot understand it, but it becomes difficult. We might have to make that sentence shorter, or not use words like “avoidance, polysyllabic, syllables, paramount, ensuring, readability, understanding, and difficult,” all polysyllabic words. Really, the sentence is a run-on sentence that could become a few sentences without becoming choppy.
So, when you say “I can do that as well” you are adding an extra word to the sentence. The Flesch Kincaid reading level is zero, whether you say “as well” or “too” in this short sentence, but as the sentences get longer and the words get longer, especially (especially – a polysyllabic word) when you add polysyllabic words, one word might make the difference in one grade level of ease in understanding.
Chopping up a long sentence can become choppy. As in: “I went to a bag pipe recital. I listened to the music. I went to the smoothie shop. I had a smoothie.” After reading that little quote, you might wonder if my name (the “I” that started all four sentences) is Dick, Jane, or even Spot. (Sorry, for you youngsters out there, ask your grandparents if they remember “Run, Spot, run. See Dick run. See Jane run. Run, Spot, run. Run, run, run.” Possibly something like that from Dick and Jane, a first-grade reader in my day. And it is not racist, and I am not scarred for having read it.)
Puff was the cat, but does anyone remember Puff? Can you imagine saying “Run, Puff, run. Run, run, run,” and Puff just stares at you indignantly. Then again, if Spot chases Puff, you might need the fire department to come get Puff out of the tree.
But God understands our prayers whether we use a lot of big words or a few small words. God has infinite patience, so He can listen to extremely long diatribes. But God answers the prayer, regardless of the length based on our heart condition and what is best for us and what His will is. And that goes for the silent prayers as well as the oral prayers. To be honest, I would love to hear the liturgist or pastor ask everyone to bow their heads for the prayer of confession and then say, “Lord, forgive us for we have sinned, amen.” And then have a camera on everyone in the congregation to see how many are mouthing silently, or even out loud, “That’s it!?!” Yes, it is. And it is all inclusive. The saint and the reprobate can both relate, unlike most longer prayers of confession.
The point Jesus was making was that we need to pray with our heart on our sleeve and say what is on our minds, or just groan because there are no words to express it. Trying to impress because dummies say “too” and “also,” so I will say “as well” because it sounds more highfalutin…
Which brings me to the second Scripture. Having quarrels over which words to use is a silly waste of time.
Is this post a silly waste of time? I sure hope not. I spent hours upon hours in multiple technical writing courses learning that stuff about shorter sentences and smaller words (when available), and I would hate to think that was wasted time.
But God will know, regardless.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.