PRATIE PLACE

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Writing Advice from George Orwell via "Wesleying"

My son Zed loves the new Wesleying blog, which pointed readers to this article:

Writing a paper? How about some free advice from one of world's most famous writers, George Orwell?

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
And he will probably ask himself two more:
  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
  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 where 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 outright barbarous.



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4 Comments:

At 3:36 PM, Blogger schoolmarm said...

Melinama, these rules are excellent. I have one I follow in addition to some of these: always use the grammar check in Word. It'll tell you what your use of passive voice is, and what the reading level is. If the reading level of your writing is 12.0, edit!

Jeanne

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had excellent grammar teachers in high school. Those were the days of sentence diagrams. By the time my kids were in kindergarten, the same school district had thrown out all the grammar books and was using a system called ''process writing'' which is also taught at the college where I teach. My kids were taught not to use passive voice if they could use active. I teach writing/grammar, reading , and speaking/listening to foreign students. We teach both active and passive voices. [First, we teach the 12 active verb tenses and then the passive forms of these 12. It makes the students crazy !!!]Our curriculum is much more grammar based than the school districts in this area. My daughter teaches language arts at the local middle school, and she says that some teachers feel it is time to bring more formal grammar teaching back into the schools. At my college, students are taught to write using a very strict formula : 5 paragraphs with the introduction as the first paragraph where the last sentence states 3 supporting details..the 3 interior paragraphs each start with a topic sentence stating one of the supporting points...the last paragraph is the conclusion where the 3 supporting details are restated. I was never taught to write to a formula, and I have always felt that I am a pretty good writer , so I don't really like to teach this formulaic type of writing , but...I must!~~~Susanlynn, running late for work again because I am here!

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had excellent grammar teachers in high school. Those were the days of sentence diagrams. By the time my kids were in kindergarten, the same school district had thrown out all the grammar books and was using a system called ''process writing'' which is also taught at the college where I teach. My kids were taught not to use passive voice if they could use active. I teach writing/grammar, reading , and speaking/listening to foreign students. We teach both active and passive voices. [First, we teach the 12 active verb tenses and then the passive forms of these 12. It makes the students crazy !!!]Our curriculum is much more grammar based than the school districts in this area. My daughter teaches language arts at the local middle school, and she says that some teachers feel it is time to bring more formal grammar teaching back into the schools. At my college, students are taught to write using a very strict formula : 5 paragraphs with the introduction as the first paragraph where the last sentence states 3 supporting details..the 3 interior paragraphs each start with a topic sentence stating one of the supporting points...the last paragraph is the conclusion where the 3 supporting details are restated. I was never taught to write to a formula, and I have always felt that I am a pretty good writer , so I don't really like to teach this formulaic type of writing , but...I must!~~~Susanlynn, running late for work again because I am here!

 
At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Writing a Research Paper said...

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