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Orwell's Other Advice About Writing

Them’s good rules.

They are the conclusion to his 1946 essay ‘Politics and the English Language’, in which he talks about the relationship between clear language and clear thinking. He ends his argument with 6 rules for sharp and accurate writing, in the hope that, not only will people express themselves more clearly, but that they might think more clearly too – that their communication might become meaning-full.

And yet halfway through the article, Orwell mentions another list for writers that gets me just as excited. This list is not talked about half as much (like omg it's buried in a monster para surely you don’t expect me to like actually read this thing wtf), but it is pure platinum. Reading it is like discovering that The Godfather has a sequel or that Dannii’s sister can sing a bit too.

Orwell says that a ‘scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus’:

  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?

If more writers (of anything at all) were to ask themselves these questions, then the world would be a much clearer and more beautiful place.

Why not ask them about the next thing that you write?

Thank you, Eric Blair.

Originally published on SmyWord.com

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