Read good writing anywhere you can find it — in novels, newspapers, magazines and online. Then ask why it works. That’s a principle espoused here to help you improve. A corollary is to read, and heed, the advice of some of the best writers of all time. George Orwell, who imagined the rise of a totalitarian “Big Brother” government in his acclaimed novel, “1984,” is a case in point. In his essay, “Politics and the English Language,” he laid down rules as relevant today as they were when he wrote them in 1946:
- 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 barbarous
“These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep
change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style
now fashionable,” Orwell wrote.
To which I can only add: Amen.