Writing Tips from George Orwell

Today, AuthorHouse presents some questions and tips from Eric Arthur Blair, also known as George Orwell. Considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, Orwell was an English novelist, journalist, critic, and essayist.

 

george-orwellHe’s best known, of course, for his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well as Animal Farm. In fact, totalitarian or authoritarian social practices have become known as “Orwellian.”

 

So without further delay, let’s look at six questions and six tips from George Orwell, from his essay “Politics and the English Language.”

 

 

 

 

In every sentence that an author writes, (s)he will ask at least four questions:

 

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 probably two additional questions:

 

5. Could I put it more shortly?
6. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

 

1984The following rules will cover most cases when the writer’s instinct fails, and he or she is in doubt about the effect of a word or phrase:

 

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.

 

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George Orwell: Six Questions/Six Tips

Let’s begin with six questions and six tips from George Orwell.*

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 Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”

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