George Orwell’s Writing Rules

George Orwell, in his essay “Politics and the English Language” provided a list of writing rules “one can rely on when instinct fails,” that is, when authors seek to use “language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.”

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.

For a contemporary take on these same points for academics, see Michael Billig’s essay “Why Academics Can’t Write,” cleverly subheaded, “the Attack of the Meaningless Nouns.”