George Orwell’s Writing Rules

In a society fast moving from considering writing as a domain of poets, literary writers and novelists, we now see the need for (and a good supply of) writers coming in to develop business content, to help market a company’s product and help them sell it online. The ultimate challenge that writers face today is the get the message across, using the Internet as a communication medium (through websites, articles, blogs, tech ref manuals etc.).

One of the earliest proponents of clear writing was George Orwell who suggested way back in 1946, the 5 golden rules for effective writing:

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1.      Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Does the phrase “Low hanging fruit” mean something to a layman? Can’t it be better written as “non-performing employee”?  Now, how many people recognize the words and the sentiments behind them?

2.       Never use a long word where a short one will do.

In the entire world, XYZ is selling like hot cakes and gathering a lot of revenues for the company”… Imagine if we write this as “XYZ is the company’s universal best-seller”

Many writers adopt the beating round the bush approach to increase word count or achieve the desired keyword density. This is a strict no-no as it insults the reader’s sensibilities.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Well, same as above (yea that’ a shorter one. No need for another example!)

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

“The man who was old was bitten by a cat”. While there’s no rocket science behind the logic, still this is an oft-disregarded adage. You can always replace the longer sentence with a shorter and effective “The cat bit the old man”

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Keep your content easily accessible to the average Joe. Readers will simply block out the content if they come across a lot of technical jargons that they can’t comprehend

Now that you know the rules, apply creativity and let your write up rise above the rest.