August 1st, 2001


(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive phrase where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

--- From "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell

George Orwell

I am reading "A Collection of Essays" by George Orwell, and they are great. I read many books, and I cherish it when I find a writer who writes so clearly. The clarity of his essays are wonderful, but even better are the insights he has about the topics he chooses. He writes about: Dickens, Gandhi, his life as a schoolboy, his experience shooting an elephant, and more. I recommend this book to everyone.


I received the following smart aleck comments to my rules on writing post.

>(vii) Speak in absolutes, because life always works that way.
>(viii) Poetry and prose can always be improved by writing in the style of a technical manual.
>(ix) Remember that the best way to write well is to follow formulae.
>(x) If you're having fun writing, something is wrong.

To be fair to Orwell, he was speaking about people that were writing Essays, especially those concerning politics. His point being that people hide their true meaning in vague words and ready made popular phrases. He evens points out that these rules are not intended for all forms of writing, and specifically mentions certain types of fiction as exceptions. You should also note that rule (vi) states to break the other rules as needed.