Orwell’s rules for English
Lorena left this comment on the post about William Lobdell’s book:
“In writing school I was taught that that’s the way to write [with simple language]. That there is no need to puff up the writing with long, obscure words to get your message across.”
I drafted the post below over five months ago and never posted it, so this is a good opportunity. It confirms what Lorena said.
For those of you who write… These rules have been helpful to me. They are found near the end of this essay, “Politics and the English Language“, by George Orwell in 1946. I use item 3 regularly for sentences and paragraphs as well. I probably break most of them most of the time…
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. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. 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.
I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.
Entry filed under: writing.