Orwell was in the process of imagining totalitarianism—he had, of course, never lived in a totalitarian society.He imagined two major traits of totalitarian societies: one is lying, and the other is what he called schizophrenia.
Think of fresh ones wherever you can.(ii) Prefer short words to long ones.(iii) Try cutting a lot of your word-count, especially those words that add little extra meaning.(iv) Don’t over-use the passive voice.
And whether passive or active, be clear who did what to whom.(v) Prefer everyday English to foreign, scientific or jargon words.(vi) Good writing is no place for the tyrant.
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
My colleague, too, referred to Orwell’s rules, suggesting that bad writing of this (and other) kinds could be avoided by following them.
Orwell argues that totalitarianism makes literature impossible.
By literature, he means all kinds of writing in prose, from imaginative fiction to political journalism; he suggests that verse might slip through the cracks.Included among the more than 240 essays in this volume are Orwell’s famous discussion of pacifism, “My Country Right or Left”; his scathingly complicated views on the dirty work of imperialism in “Shooting an Elephant”; and his very firm opinion on how to make “A Nice Cup of Tea.” In his essays, Orwell elevated political writing to the level of art, and his motivating ideas–his desire for social justice, his belief in universal freedom and equality, and his concern for truth in language–are as enduringly relevant now, a hundred years after his birth, as ever.George Orwell (1903–1950) served with the Imperial Police in Burma, fought with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, and was a member of the Home Guard and a writer for the BBC during World War II. More about George Orwell “Orwell is the most influential political writer of the twentieth century…He gives us a gritty, personal example of how to engage as a writer in politics.” –New York Review of Books“[Orwell] evolved, in his seemingly offhand way, the clearest and most compelling English prose style this century…But of course he was more than just a great writer.He writes, too, that there is such a thing as “groups of people who have adopted a totalitarian outlook”—single-truth communities of sorts, not just totalitarian regimes or entire countries. Orwell was writing in 1946, five or seven years before scholarly works by Hannah Arendt, on the one hand, and Karl Friedrich, on the other, provided the definitions of totalitarianism that are still in use today.Orwell’s own “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” which provides the visceral understanding of totalitarianism that we still conjure up today, was a couple of years away.Never say “never” and always avoid “always”, or at the least handle them with care.Overusing such words is an invitation for critics to hold you to your own impossible standard.But was Orwell aiming to mislead when he told writers never to use the passive? He merely failed to hold himself to this rule at all times.That simply makes him human—a frailty shared by journalists at (Well, most journalists; our science editor we're not always sure about.) Orwell accommodated poetic license in his sixth rule: “Break any of these rules rather than say something outright barbarous.” A hint of flexibility. Indeed, here are his rules liberated from those dogmatic “nevers” and the “always”:(i) Avoid using metaphors, similes, or other figures of speech which you are used to seeing in print.That's why Orwell himself doesn’t always obey them.Of the tensed transitive verbs in “Politics and the English Language”, at least a fifth are in the passive voice.