Sunday, February 18

Orwell's writing tips

Since I am on the verge of becoming a full time, professional writer (more on this soon!), I thought I'd share these writing tips I saw from George Orwell.

The widespread totalitarianism Orwell feared has not (yet) come to pass. Fear Huxley's predictions more. But these are some pretty good suggestions for writing. I may have to go back and read some Orwell as an illustration of these ideas. 

 A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use 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.   

From "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell

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