George Orwell’s 20 Quotes on Writing

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1. “If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.”

2. “- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
– Never use a long word where a short one will do.
– If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
– Never use the passive where you can use the active.
– Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
– Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

3. “When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

4. “For after all, what is there behind, except money? Money for the right kind of education, money for influential friends, money for leisure and peace of mind, money for trips to Italy. Money writes books, money sells them. Give me not righteousness, O lord, give me money, only money.”

5. “In an age like our own, when the artist is an altogether exceptional person, he must be allowed a certain amount of irresponsibility, just as a pregnant woman is. Still, no one would say that a pregnant woman should be allowed to commit murder, nor would anyone make such a claim for the artist, however gifted. If Shakespeare returned to the earth to-morrow, and if it were found that his favourite recreation was raping little girls in railway carriages, we should not tell him to go ahead with it on the ground that he might write another King Lear. And, after all, the worst crimes are not always the punishable ones. By encouraging necrophilic reveries one probably does quite as much harm as by, say, picking pockets at the races. One ought to be able to hold in one’s head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being. The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other. The first thing that we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp. In the same way it should be possible to say, “This is a good book or a good picture, and Continue reading “George Orwell’s 20 Quotes on Writing”

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6 Writing Tips By George Orwell

They're really 7... Shhh...

There’s a lot you can learn from Orwell’s writing. His Animal Farm and 1984 are now considered masterpieces – ironic, given the difficulties in getting them published – and are studied in school, I hear. “Intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism” are some of his traits. Some of them are impossible to emulate or even approximate. If you did, your work would be described as Orwellian, which shows how difficult the task would be.

He set the bar high, though he would never have said so as you’ll see in point 3. But we can at least take a few hints from him. I’d counsel you to read his “Politics and the English Language” where you’ll find most of this counsel in better form. Continue at your peril:

1. Learn from the best.

“The writers I care about most and never grow tired of are: Shakespeare, Swift, Fielding, Dickens, Charles Reade, Flaubert and, among modern writers, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence. But I believe the modern writer who has influenced me most is Somerset Maugham, whom I admire immensely for his power of telling a story straightforwardly and without frills.”

2. Ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to say?
  • What words will express it?
  • What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  • Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
  • Could I put it more shortly?
  • Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly.

3. Avoid metaphors. Not all, just the dead ones. A metaphor you create evokes a visual image but a metaphor you recycle from current use loses its vividness. Toe the line, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel. To use these and Continue reading “6 Writing Tips By George Orwell”