George Orwell’s Five Rules

Caravans, Ethiopia

Caravans, Ethiopia / Photograph by George Steinmetz / National Geographic's Photo of the Day

With the advent of the internet, publishing compositions became easy. There are blogging platforms like WordPress who cater to almost any kind of writer. While content and creativity will almost always determine success, there’s no way that a writer can succeed if he or she is writing poorly. Luckily in 1946, George Orwell wrote Politics and the English Language and in it, he mentions five rules to effective writing.

Rule 1: Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech seen in print. In my world, I see this as an invitation to be creative. Why? What’s wrong with those kinds of writing? For one, they are overused. I’d compare it to one of the Backstreet Boys’ songs, “I Want It That Way.” At first, it sounded nice, and I loved listening to it. When its popularity hit its peak, no matter what radio station I listened to, I got to hear them ten times a day. As a result, I became calloused to the soulfulness, and hearing the song made it irritating to me. The same can be said with words, so that’s the challenge.

Rule 2: Never use a long word where a short one will do. I guess this rule applies to people who think that long words make them smart. Yes, long words can make your ideas sound smart, but they can also be complicated or worse, unknown to your readers. Take for example the word, paronomasia. What is it? It sounds like some sort of disease, but it’s simply a pun. Yes, we can all use those words to assert our smarts, but is that the actual purpose of writing? Writing is communication, so the idea is to be understood, not sound smart.

Rule 3: If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. This rule is so true, especially when I consider the tutors that I handle. I always see their advice saying “you need to be able to communicate” when it could be shorter if they say “you need to communicate.” I like food, and I can say that this rule addresses burger patty extenders. It’s hard to say that a burger is good if you can clearly tell that there’s too much potato and not much beef, and I can say the same for writing.

Rule 4: Never use the passive where you can use the active. Have I already explained what the difference is? In a nutshell, the passive voice is a sentence made up of a to-be verb and the past participle of a verb. The active voice includes, usually, only the actual action of the subject. This rule is a rather technical one, so I’ll use examples:

Passive: Lady Antebellum is liked by Chad.
Active: Chad likes Lady Antebellum.

For one, the active sentence is shorter than the passive, which echoes Rule 3. However, I do have notes on the passive voice, which I’ll put in another discussion, so please don’t think that it’s useless.

Rule 5: Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. This is common sense. Not everyone knows their meaning. Sometimes, even the speaker or writer doesn’t know it, hence, a breakdown in communication happens.

These are just five rules that could improve your writing. Of course, there are so many other guidelines to consider, but these five are the most applicable to everyone. They could help bloggers get their ideas across to their readers clearly, and if that happens consistently, wouldn’t it be safe to assume that followers aren’t far away, if not publishers from major publishing houses?

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