Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 5, 200811:37 PM

6 Writing Rules To Master

If you want to write like a best-selling author, you might as well listen to what one of them thinks about writing.

George Orwell may be best known for the books Animal Farm and 1984, but there is a lesser-known essay he put together titled, Politics and the English Language, that featured his six rules for better writing:

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.

Here's what he wrote about his rules:

"These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English... I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought... If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself."

He wrote this essay in 1946.

Words matter. With publishing tools like Blogs and Twitter, maybe they matter even more.

Great rules are timeless, no matter how much technology changes the platform by which they are delivered.

(hat tip to Hugh McGuire from LibriVox)

By Mitch Joel


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