Six rules for writing

The English novelist and journalist George Orwell once asked, “Is there anyone who has ever written so much as a love letter in which he felt that he had said exactly what he intended?”

It takes a master craftsman to recognise the limitations of his tools. As Orwell observed, “So soon as we are dealing with anything that is not concrete or visible (and even there to a great extent – look at the difficulty of describing anyone’s appearance) we find that words are no liker to the reality than chessmen to living beings.”

In Politics and the English Language, Orwell goes on to provide six rules for writing that have stood the test of time:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  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 voice 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.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.