by Samuel Osho | Oct 15, 2017 | Writing
Six Golden Rules That Will Change Your Writing Forever
Writing is a craft
, which means it can be studied, understood, and learnt. It’s natural for you to feel inadequate after reading the works of some excellent writers. But here is the good news, you can be a better writer if you are ready to do the work.
After wrestling with a bouquet of books, I encountered several authors who gave their best to make words look more than a compendium of alphabets. George Orwell is one of such beautiful minds that blessed the world with greats gifts such as Animal Farm
, Nineteen Eighty-Four
, The Road to Wigan Pier
amongst many others. His exceptional use of allegory in Animal Farm
made him stand out amidst his peers.
However, not many people know his real name – Eric Arthur Blair. In fact, his tombstone bears “Eric Arthur Blair.” But even in his death, the world continues to celebrate the works of Orwell for his ability to explain social injustice, autocracy, democratic socialism to the common man. This is a popular quote from his book, Animal Farm
: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
In “Politics and the English Language
,” an essay published by Orwell in 1946, he handed six golden rules to all writers of English language. These six cardinal points can guide your choices of words and embellish your works with brilliance.
After applying these six rules to my writing, my paragraphs started shining. I thought of sharing them with you, so you can also start cooking irresistible meals of literature for your readers.
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
This a priceless advice for writers that want to produce outstanding works. Does Orwell mean I should come up with new literary devices despite the inundating volume of works in print? Yes! And you can do it. You only need to pay attention to the concepts of these literary devices and craft ones peculiar to your work. In summary, Orwell wants you to know that cliches make your work look watery, ordinary and common.
In a more practical sense, avoid using the following expressions: “apple of my eye,” “birds of a feather flock together,” “ideas in motion,” “life is a journey,” “the light of my life,” “necessity is the mother of invention,” “sweet smell of success,” amongst many others. Craft new expressions using your originality and you will be amazed by the effects created.
Never use a long word where a short one will do
As rightly put by the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare: “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Every writer must work towards brevity; put your thoughts across to readers in a lucid manner using the right words. Use words that can shorten the length of your text. Be concise and clear.
In all, never put your readers in doubt as regards the meaning of your thoughts. Take a look at the following examples: “Obama is a bold speaker” instead of “Obama is no longer shy when speaking.” “He is fearless” instead of “He is not afraid.”
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
When you are in search of inspiration and your mind is aimed at reaching a certain word count, you may be tempted to use all the words that come your way. Have you noticed that if you take a second look at your written piece, some sentences will survive without “that”? After the first draft, peruse your work and cut out unnecessary words.
” As rightly put by the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare: ‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’ Every writer must work towards brevity; put your thoughts across to readers in a lucid manner using the right words.”
Never use the passive where you can use the active
Masters of forceful writing make use of active sentences. They are powerful and not as weak like the passive ones. If you want to be direct and grab the attention of your readers from the first sentence, employ active sentences.
Orwell means you should say, “I shall always remember my first visit to California” instead of “My first visit to California will always be remembered by me.”
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
Writing is a form of communication and understanding is key. What is the essence of writing articles that are incomprehensible? Use simple words and avoid scientific words whenever possible. It will facilitate the comprehension of your readers. If it’s academic writing, you can use professional terms. You really don’t need to use words like “status quo,” and “lingua franca” if they can be replaced with English equivalents.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous
Rules are guidelines and they offer guidance. But why don’t you attempt breaking one of these rules? Sometimes, rules are meant to be broken if you want to soar on the wings of creativity. Have fun with your imagination and make sure you have a concrete reason for breaking any of these rules.
In conclusion, stay away from popular metaphors, say goodbye to passive sentences, shun foreign phrases, seek brevity and feel free to break any of the rules. Apply these golden rules from Orwell to your writing and watch your piece glitter like gold. That’s it for this week.
Let me know your thoughts about this post. Which one of the six rules is your favorite? Which one of the six rules do you want to apply immediately to your writing?