Orwell Clarity

Arh. Those were the days. Slaving over a Proposal the size of a phone book. Crafting a bespoke five page letter to qualify a new prospect. Nowadays ‘message exchange’ can be remarkably abrupt.

I’m not advocating a return to the old days. Replete with physical folders half-a-forest full of docs for each deal.

I am though struck at how the skills which help get often complex points across with startling simplicity are today being left unused.

Good writing is not just the preserve of beefy Proposals. It applies to how you talk about a slide, make any explanation sticky, and write that two paragraph email that won’t be ignored.

Have you applied George Orwell’s rules for effective writing to your own words?

Take your last ‘letter’ that was written from scratch. Check it against the original words of Orwell’s Remedy;

  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.

How do you stack up?


footnote: eleven days after I wrote this, ideavirus blogger Seth Godin also posted some entertaining business writing observations on precisely the same foundation – I wonder if he also heard the same English talk radio item I did to trigger it off?

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