April 04, 2013

Politics and the English Language: Orwell's 6 Rules to Good Writing



This is an unfortunate state of affairs. My love for writing is halted by my finding of writing difficult. These are equal and opposing predispositions and they come together and wrap me up in the bondage of maddening procrastination.
It’s like a rational irrationality. It comes so easy, yet it causes such pain. News that Nobel-winning economist George Akelof procrastinates provided some comfort. But it’s still hard to deal with nonetheless.

In spite of the difficulty, I continue forward. Motivated by an inner impulse to pick up a pen, a love for written words, wordmanship and the joy of holding up the final written product.
In a perverse way I enjoy playing with syntax and formulating a joy-to-read flow of words. I’m drawn to the beauty of well written prose. Its ability to compel new thought, drive conversation, debate and draw people in.
I’m also drawn to the process and art of writing: where men and women take ideas, filter them through their consciousness and transcribe them onto paper or across a keyboard. Break it down and writing is the rejumbling and regurgitation of words, idioms and metaphors into a coherent form and body argument.
So how do I deal with the challenge of loving writing but finding it hard? Well, reading helps. So does practice. I’ve also been drawn to study the work of the famous English novelist George Orwell.
I was listening to BBC Radio 4 recently and a show that explored the legacy of George Orwell’s famous essay, Politics and the English language.
In that essay Orwell outlined the 6 rules he formulated on how to write good English.
  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.
These rules for producing good writing came as a welcome comfort. I still find writing hard but hopefully these rules can go some way to helping me deal with my writing predicament.
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