In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell made a list of six rules for writers. “These rules sound elementary,” Orwell wrote, “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.” Though he compiled this list in 1946, it’s as relevant and useful today as it was then:
- 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.