George Orwell on Writing

Not that I follow these rules, but I’ve had this excerpt kicking around for a while in my notes and figured I’d post it somewhere I could reflect on it:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never us 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 can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

“These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article”*

From George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”, 1946.

*To see the full context of what he was talking about, you can take a look at the entire essay here.

, ,

  1. #1 by M on November 29, 2008 - 6:34 pm

    I LOVE the identity crisis warning sign!
    And I love the summary of Orwell’s article.

(will not be published)