Today’s post is the third and last in our week devoted to George Orwell, highlighting some more helpful advice he gave in the essay we talked about in our last post.
This essay on the terrible state of English writing, according to Orwell, and how we all can improve it was actually first published in a 1946 issue of the English journal ‘Horizon’.
Orwell gave six rules to stop writers using meaningless unclear phrases:
- Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you think you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Orwell himself didn’t find these rules easy, admitting “for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against”.
Which of Orwell’s rules do you think is the most important? Or do you think it depends on what you’re writing?