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George Orwell: suitable subject for a tattoo?

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.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Pingback: Jim Harvey on: Consulting » Blog Archive » Speakers need this more than presentation training- George Orwell’s 5 Rules for Effective Writing | PickTheBrain | Motivation and Self Improvement

  2. Canadian Pharmacy Online

    February 12, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Very nice post, good luck! 😉

  3. Elois Englander

    May 20, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    I will definitely recommend this to my friends

  4. dayhoradunda

    July 10, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Yes, you have truly told
    Certainly. All above told the truth.

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  6. Pingback: Steve Jobs. Great presenter? Hmmmm.

  7. Pingback: Speakers need this much more than presentation training-

  8. Edward Pierson

    November 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    (4 Decent Books) You obviously haven’t read Burmese days- Amazing book.

    • Jim Harvey

      November 29, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      I haven’t read it. Is it a novel? It’s his novels I don’t much care for. Like his journalism, however. Rgds Jim

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