George Orwell Hated Crappy Writing
I suspect that many of you, since you are reading a blog about books, are avid readers.
Many avid readers, I would propose, have at least a passing interest in writing–most of you have blogs, I’ve noticed.
As a writer myself, I love to read how more experienced writers approach the writing process. So, when someone like George Orwell offers writing advice, I listen.
Here are a few of Orwell’s excellent tips on writing, from his essay “Politics and the English Language”:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Orwell hated fluffy writing. “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 spurting out ink,” he said.
In other words, cut the B.S. That’s why he hated political writing–and who can blame him? Sixty years later, politicians continue to be the masters of saying absolutely nothing with as many words as possible.
So what tips would you offer about writing? I’ll start: Know your contractions. “You’re” and “your” mean different things. Same goes for “it’s” and “its.” Know the difference!