Monday, October 25, 2010

George Orwell's five rules of blogging

OK, George Orwell was never a blogger. One of the greatest ever writers died just over sixty years ago. However, his rules still hold good today. In his essay, "Politics and the English Language", he defined five rules of writing. Here's my take on them for bloggers everywhere:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Although these phrases are in common usage - "It's not rocket science", "Out of the box thinking" etc, etc., they have lost their impact. Try to be original to make the reader sit up and think, or don't use metaphors at all.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do. This is embedded in the brain of all newspaper sub-editors. It's just as easy (in fact easier) to convey a message in simple words as in complex language.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. People use "filler words" in speech all the time - "Actually", "To be perfectly honest". These words and phrases have no meaning, and no place in your writing.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. Make your blog as easy to read as possible by helping the reader with simple grammar.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. I see this rule broken most often. English is such a rich language, there is no need to resort to another.

However, George also added a sixth rule:

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I agree, and think that the bonus rule is most important of all. As the song goes "If you can't say anything real nice, please don't talk at all, that's my advice". That doesn't mean you have to be nicey-nicey all the time, but name-calling and abuse is a poor approach.

Now, having set out the rules, I'm sure I'll break a few of them from time to time. So will you (and so did George). But as guidance for good blogging, I'm signed up to them.

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