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George Orwell's rules for writing

22 April 2013

'In his essay Politics and the English language George Orwell set out a series of rules for writing that are worth repeating in full: 1 Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print. 2 Never use a long word where a short one will do. 3 If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. 4 Never use the passive when you can use the active. 5 Never use a foreign phrase or jargon word if you can think of an everyday equivalent. 6 Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I would add four more tips. 1 Read the papers. 2 Be a sponge. Journalists need to soak up every detail from any situation they are reporting on. A seemingly superfluous detail later may suddenly strike you as a key that unlocks the whole yarn. Or it might just make the reader think, or laugh. 3 Write as much as you can. The more you do the better you'll get at it. 4 Never start a piece with a clunking reworking of Jane Austen's most famous opening sentence.'

Damian Whitworth in The Times