I know that George Orwell, English novelist, liberal and writer, only wrote 4 decent books (The Road to Wigan Pier, Down and Out in Paris & London, 1984 and Animal Farm- in my opinion). As a novelist, he was probably better at the ideas than their expression, but the was a truly great journalist. He set the standard for lean, spare prose and he’s still very influential today, 60 year after his death. You’ll all probably know his ‘rules for writers’-
1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which 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, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.
Well I don’t understand why they’re not tattooed onto the forehead of every single one of us who would seek to tell others how to talk. Yes, you’d change the first point to ‘hearing in conversation’ but that’d be it. It’s great advice for us all and I’m going to commit to enforcing these rules whenever I hear professionals abusing them.
Oh, and as for point 6, I didn’t really understand it until the evening I told a rather rude story about a celebrity at an after dinner speech I was making, and got roars of wicked laughter from every table except one.
I later found out from one of the party that the ‘victim’s’ mother (and the story was true), had paid for the 12 people to be there and was sat stony-faced among them. Who would have thought it was possible? So I understand the point and still feel like a barbarian for having embarrassed a lovely lady, even though her son is a brute.