Writing tips from George Orwell…

category: Articles
by Alexis Leon

Eric Arthur Blair better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author. He is considered as the best chronicler of English culture of the 20th century. He wrote many novels, essays, polemic journalism, literary reviews, and poetry. His most famous works are the satirical novel Animal Farm (1945) and the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Irrespective of whether you are a novice or a seasoned writer, you can always improve your craft by reading what the masters have written. George Orwell is one such master. One essay that is a must read for every writer is his essay “Politics and the English Language.” Given below are the questions and rules on good writing taken from the essay.

When writing a sentence you should always ask yourself these questions:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
  5. Could I put it more shortly?
  6. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

When choosing words, follow those rules:

  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.

Tags: , ,


Name (required)

Email (required)


Leave a comment

2 Comments so far

  1. Vivek Gopakumar | 14 July 2009, 12:22

    Nice points. Short and simple words are always better that colorful and flamboyant ones.

    The great American writers Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner had a famous rivalry. Faulkner, a writer praised for his intricate prose style (that initially confused his readers), criticized Hemingway’s trademark simplicity.

    Hemingway fired back, “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.

  2. Alexis Leon | 14 July 2009, 12:23

    That was a nice one. Thanks.