Writers Write shares writing tips and resources. In this post, we share George Orwell’s 6 Questions And 6 Rules For Writing.
George Orwell was born 25 June 1903, and died 21 January 1950. The acclaimed English writer is the author of the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and the allegorical novella Animal Farm. Together, these books have sold more copies than any two books by any other 20th-century author.
Here are Orwell’s six questions and six rules for writing.
George Orwell’s 6 Questions And 6 Rules For Writing
“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
- What am I trying to say?
- What words will express it?
- What image or idiom will make it clearer?
- Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
And he will probably ask himself two more:
- Could I put it more shortly?
- Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?”
“One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
- 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 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.”
Taken from Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”.
Source: Gotham Writers
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