George Orwell’s advice on good writing lives with us today

George Orwell (1903-1950) was an influential British novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic who wrote the famous books, the allegorical Animal Farm and his dystopian novel, Nineteen eight-four, which are still widely quoted today. In one of his articles, Orwell (photo in 1943 press card, opposite) gave several core points of advice on how to write well. We are familiar with all of the points of advice, but they are valuable reminders, listed together, for us to keep in to guide us when we write today. Five pieces of George Orwell’s advice on good writing are:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print [presumably because they are inevitably cliches these days].
  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.

Orwell remains so respected that a not-for-profit organization, The Orwell Foundation, is still active today in dedication to his memory (refer to the link below). The bulk of his article, “Politics and the English language,” which contains the writing advice, is about some dated, broader issues with language that are unlikely to be of interest to today’s readers.

You can easily copy George Orwell’s advice on good writing to pin up and remind yourself about the fundamentals of good writing he shared with readers.

You can read further suggestions for good writing in my article, “Quick tests to ensure the readability of your writing.”

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