One excellent yet pithy set of rules for writing well comes from 70 years ago by the British writer, George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm as well as numerous essays. The rules are part of an essay called “Politics and the English Language” in which he argues that poorly written English results from bad habits of thought. Get rid of the bad habits and clearer thinking emerges in the mind of the writer and on paper.
His six rules are
- “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.”