George Orwell- Politics and the English Language

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This essay is essential reading for anyone keen to develop their capacity for effective, clear writing. Orwell makes the point powerfully that writing simply, clearly with a real sense of what one is saying is a means for not only learning about what we think ourselves, but also a means for changing the sloppiness of the world’s thoughts. For Orwell the whole process of writing is an incredible process of purification- but one has to take the process seriously and not be lazy. So much in this essay is full of good advice. Read it until you understand every aspect of this advice- and then apply it to your own writing.

If you want to go further with his ideas then you should also read Don Watson’s Death Sentence which follows on directly from Orwell and applies it to a modern Australian context.

Blog Topics for this week:

1/ Take one of the ugly passages of prose from Orwell’s essay and turn it into beautiful, clear writing.

2/ Take a passage from the Bible that you really enjoy and try to turn it into a version full of modern jargon (Use Orwell’s example from Ecclesiastes as a guide).

3/ From Orwell’s list write your own list of the most important Do’s and Don’ts for writing effectively.

4/ Rewrite the first paragraph of your essay in the most horrible, convoluted, ugly way that you can. Change all the simple words to latinate complicated words, link your sentences making them menacingly long. Then sit back and undo the horrible mess you have created and present a clean, effective version… have fun!

Click on the image to access the only known video image of Orwell…

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