Monday, June 17, 2013

Writing Tips - 6 Questions / 6 Rules

From Gotham Writers' Workshop Inc. comes some of George Orwell's writing tips from his essay Politics and the English Language.

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, Orwell will ask himself at least four 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?

And, he will probably ask himself two more:

1. Could I put it more shortly?
2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. Orwell thinks the following rules will cover most cases:

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.


  1. I love these! I have to remind myself sometimes that short & sweet is the way to go. Excellent list here...thanks!...and Happy SITS Day.

  2. Orwell thinks that if you just say what you mean, you'll get your message across better. Thanks for reading.

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