I have just read George Orwell’s 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language,” and I encourage you to do the same. The focus of the essay is largely on political writing, but the observations are broadly applicable to all kinds of writing (and speaking, for that matter), from blogs to academic papers to job applications. Orwell is insightful, concise and frequently hilarious, and I doubt I could do him justice by paraphrasing. Click here for the full text.
Here’s a teaser, and perhaps the most immediately helpful section of Orwell’s essay: Six rules for good, clear, effective writing:
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.