George Orwell’s Five Rules for Writing

As a perpetually practicing writer, I always look for ways to communicate better. That means I read a lot, including several blogs about writing, content strategy, vocabulary, marketing, grammar, books, and such. And I find thought-provoking, helpful, and fun stuff from the likes of A.Word.A.Day and Garrison Keillor’s American Media/NPR program “The Writer’s Almanac,” which appears on my desktop as a daily e-letter, since I can’t always tune in to hear the Minnesotan’s dulcet tones on the radio.

Along with each day’s eclectic poem, “The Writer’s Almanac” brings a raft of excellent writing and reading perspective, as well as acres of encouragement, based on memorable moments in the world — facilitated by writing and communication — and the shared birthdays of writers past and present.

In addition to marking the 135th anniversary of Custer’s Last Stand, Friday, June 25, 2011, commemorated the birthday of writer George Orwell and chronicled his background, novels, and essays. Keillor also treated us to this ever-useful excerpt from Orwell’s 1946 book “Politics and the English Language” that highlights his “five rules for effective written communication:

  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 a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  5. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

‘Nuff said.

©2011 Jill J. Jensen/Clarity from Chaos