Usage and Grammar

Q. If an author uses a rare word like “prevaricators” when “liars” would be more clear, should an editor change it? The author’s audience is college graduates, not necessarily English or journalism majors.

A. Dumbing down someone’s prose should be done for a reason, never simply as a policy. A writer might use a five-dollar word for the sake of rhythm, humor, allusion, or precision. “Prevaricator” is a good word (and it isn’t the same as “liar,” although they overlap in meaning). It would be a shame to banish it from the language. So query it if you think “liars” is a better choice, but be prepared to say why.