March 18, 2014George Orwell is best known for 1984, his fictionalized account of an authoritarian dystopia in which all human activity is tightly controlled by a central authority. That work has endured because, in addition to being marvelously well written, it’s proven prescient about the inner-workings of modern totalitarian states. But Orwell was also a prolific and powerful essayist. “Politics and the English Language” is one of his most influential entries. And it includes a short set of writing rules that are highly applicable to crafting op-eds. This list is already famous. You might already know about it. But it’s worth revisiting regularly:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.