George Orwell is one of those authors that everyone knows about…and whose works I have actually yet to read. I was listening to a writing lecture by Stephen King, and he was really enthusiastic about Orwell’s instruction on writing, so I decided to poke around a bit and see what quotes I could find online. Here’s what I came up with!
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.
An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a face.
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up.
Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.
I think a lot of Orwell’s advice is really helpful! I do also think he’s a bit too negative and cynical for my liking, but I’ll withhold my judgment until I’ve actually read one of his books.
Have you read any Orwell novels? Do you find his writing advice useful?
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!