If you find yourself writing something particularly fine – strike it out

george-orwell

I am in the middle of a small project just now and I haven’t had a chance to blog much. Obviously I can’t say much about it but suffice to say I am unpicking a lot prose by people who struggle for various reasons with the written word.

Many of the clients don’t have English as a first language, which is fair enough. But the texts that I find the most challenging are by business executives and non-writers who are having fun with it.

One can’t blame them I suppose, but it is often hard to actually focus down on what they are trying to say and often there are 500 words about nothing much at all so the copy ends up down to 100 words or fewer without losing any information.

I’ll have more to say on writing, good and bad at some point, but in the meantime remember George Orwell.

Below I have paraphrased his ‘five’ golden rules.

1. Avoid clichés or over used phrases.
2. Never use long words where short ones will do.
3. Remember word economy. If it is possible to cut a word out, then cut it out.
4. Use an active voice rather than the passive.
5. Avoid jargon and pretensions foreign words if a simple clearer English word will do.

6. Know when to break these rules if it enhances communication.

You have probably heard these before, but I like to remind myself too. More soon

2 thoughts on “If you find yourself writing something particularly fine – strike it out

  1. In response to 3: But what if I want everybody to know how smart I am?
    Jokes aside, are these rules from one of Orwell’s essays? I’d like to look it up. Thanks for posting!

    Like

    1. Hi James,

      thanks for dropping by.

      The five (six) rules are part of many publication style guides and are often referred to. I believe the original source was George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language.

      I know what you mean – I am a big fan of rule number six. 😉

      I hope that answers your question.

      Like

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