Great writing is subjective. But growing up, clarity and conciseness were characteristics my high school English teacher advocated. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that she presented my 10th grade English class with George Orwell’s rules on writing. These are rules that Orwell claims “one can rely on when instinct fails.”
- 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.
These rules were published in Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language. In this essay, he notes that these rules may appear fundamental, but still serve as a necessary reminder to curb your tendency to write “in the style now fashionable.”
Picture from here.
Rules found here.