Yet despite all this, despite his having written such influential novels as Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, it's his essays for which I am most grateful. One essay in particular - Politics and the English Language - provides the only rules I observe whenever I come to write:
- 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 voice 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.
Whenever I feel badly about having not been able to attend university, a skim through Orwell is enough to cheer me up, for he was as financially unable as am I; yet of all the qualities that make him a good writer (compassion, sensitivity, insight) none of these can be taught in a classroom. Bright, rebellious, bloody-minded - these are the Orwellian qualities I have always sought to encourage in myself; I consider it a singular honour to have even a particle of Orwell's legacy alive in me.
share on: facebook