Monday, January 2, 2012

Writing advice from George Orwell

In his essay, "Politics and the English Language," published in 1946, George Orwell (author of 1984 etc.) offered advice writing for common communication (in contrast to literary writing), "for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought." His five points are:
  1.  Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2.  Never us a long word where a short one will do.
  3.  If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4.  Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5.  Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. 
He concludes with:
If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

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