Follow George Orwell’s 6 famous rules for writing, but made BETTER by The Economist.
The original rules are,
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
While brilliant, the rigidity of Orwell’s laws can be an issue. The first five all contain the words “never” or “always.”
Critics point out that these rules are hard to follow strictly, with Orwell himself found to break them on several occasions.
As such, The Economist’s literary section Prospero, propose the following 6 updated rules, freed from the dogmatic “nevers” and “always”:
I) Steer clear of clichés that you are accustomed to reading in print. Think of new ones where possible.
(ii) Opt for brief words over lengthy ones.
(iii) Try reducing your word count significantly, particularly those terms that don’t provide much additional meaning.
(iv) Don’t over-use the passive voice. And whether passive or active, be clear who did what to who.
(v) Prefer standard English to words from other languages, science, or jargon.
(vi) Dogma has no place in good writing. Never use the words “never” or “always,” or at the very least handle them with care, otherwise you may find yourself having to eat your words.
Which rule are YOU guilty of breaking? Share in the comments below.