Garblog's Pages

Friday, April 20, 2012

Politics and the English Language | George Orwell

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.
George Orwell wrote those words in April 1946 for Horizon. They're in an essay that, itself, is rather dense and wordy. But the essay reflects the type of language--and uses the words and terms--that Orwell wants writers to stop using. 

If you haven't read his essay, I recommend it. But near the end, Orwell summarizes his advice for improving clarity in writing:
  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.
For more information on concise writing, check out these resources:


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