Why Orwell Hated the Cliche →

For what would have been George Orwell’s 99th birthday, here are reflections on his relationship to writing and language from Lawrence Wright:

Orwell’s proposition is that modern English, especially written English, is so corrupted by bad habits that it has become impossible to think clearly. The main enemy, he believed, was insincerity, which hides behind the long words and empty phrases that stand between what is said and what is really meant.

A scrupulous writer, Orwell notes, will ask himself: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What fresh image will make it clearer? Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? The alternative is simply “throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you — concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.”…

…Orwell optimistically sets forward six simple rules to improve the state of the English language: guidelines that anyone, not just professional writers, can follow.

But I’m not going to tell you what they are. You’ll have to re-read [Politics and the English Language (PDF)] yourself. I’m only going to speak about Rule No. 1, which is never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.

For me, that’s the hardest rule and no doubt the reason that it’s No. 1. Cliches, like cockroaches in the cupboard, quickly infest a careless mind. I constantly struggle with the prefabricated phrases that substitute for simple, clear prose…

…”Political language,” Orwell reminds us, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits.”

NPR: Orwell on Writing: ‘Clarity Is the Remedy’

  1. darknerdygonzo reblogged this from discoverynews
  2. godwhyrp reblogged this from discoverynews
  3. diabolepsy reblogged this from discoverynews
  4. dickpee reblogged this from futurejournalismproject
  5. little-minnow reblogged this from raven-puffle
  6. aladygrinningsoul reblogged this from discoverynews
  7. wiratomkinder reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  8. librascurio reblogged this from discoverynews
  9. so-ul-happy reblogged this from discoverynews
  10. goldinmyheadx reblogged this from futurejournalismproject
  11. wearetheshaken reblogged this from discoverynews
  12. inbonobo reblogged this from futurejournalismproject and added:
    write good.. OrWell :)))
  13. pixelgrids reblogged this from discoverynews
  14. goldendevil reblogged this from infiniteluteces
  15. infiniteluteces reblogged this from thebutcherandhisprose
  16. bringthesuntoussaintlouverture reblogged this from thebutcherandhisprose
  17. thebutcherandhisprose reblogged this from sunrec
  18. flowersinyou reblogged this from drica
  19. meowgosaurus reblogged this from discoverynews
  20. drica reblogged this from al-spudnik
  21. kcalron reblogged this from sunrec
  22. skaterboytae reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  23. its-london-calling reblogged this from sunrec
  24. rivereverywhere reblogged this from futurejournalismproject
  25. strunkandwhite reblogged this from discoverynews
  26. hedonismexplored reblogged this from nicoledissonance
  27. tatsie reblogged this from discoverynews and added:
    Writing advice from George Orwell. The authors of my college readings should’ve read this.
  28. itsdds reblogged this from discoverynews