Orwell can teach us

George Orwell was more than a dark prophet whose story, 1984, made many of us fear for our future.  He was also a man who felt deep passion for clarity in the English language.  Here are a few simple rules he championed:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. 

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do. 

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. 

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active. 

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. 

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Following those rules will not in themselves make anyone a great writer (ideas are where things start) but following them will certainly make what you produce easier, and more interesting, to read.  Finally, please note the last rule.  There is something to be said for civility.  I am a member of the Globe and Mail Catalysts group and one of the most heated topics was how online newspapers should deal with uncivilized and (almost always anonymous) vicious commentary in online forums and in reaction to published articles. 

In consideration of that final rule, I never thought I would have the reason or opportunity to say this but for this specific purpose it makes sense…. I wish the world could be more Orwellian.

About Peter Armaly
I get jazzed by automation, big data, and blockchain tech. Business, technology, and fitness are things I understand. Scotch, wine, food, and fiction are things I appreciate.

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