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How to

How Toosday: six tips from George Orwell to improve your writing

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

While video may be all the rage and podcasting is growing in influence, a marketer in 2018 still won’t get very far without expert-level writing chops. Words still have power. Words still have influence. As such, the ability to write well is still crucial.

But, how to improve one’s writing? Well, get rid of pompous sentences like that for a start! Seriously though, whatever medium we’re focused on, we all want tips to help us get better, don’t we?

As with anything else, it’s always worth turning to those at the top of the field to see what expertise they can offer, which is exactly what we’ve done for this article.

It might be more than 70 years old, but George Orwell’s 1946 essay Politics and the English Language is still an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to be a better writer.

Contained within are six rules of writing that will still serve as the best advice about the craft you’ll read all week. Get set to be inspired.

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print

We’re not professional footballers. We don’t want to resort to clichés and tired expressions that everyone and their uncle uses. Be original, be thoughtful and be creative.

Somewhat ironically in a list of tips written by someone else, sticking to this rule also helps stop you just regurgitating the ideas of others. Yep, we know… #dealwithit

Never use a long word where a short one will do

Aside from making your copy easier for your audience to understand, having more punch and making you more trustworthy, using shorter words actually makes you sound more intelligent. No, really. There’s even an academic study to back it up and everything.

Remember, size doesn’t matter – it’s what you do with it that counts.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out

There’s something beautiful about tight copy, where every word is necessary. If you’re struggling to find something to cut, start with your adverbs and any uses of the word ‘that’.

Never use the passive where you can use the active

The passive voice sucks. It slows your work down, it’s ambiguous and tiresome. Ditch it!

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent

We’re probably all guilty of using jargon at some point when we know we shouldn’t. For those of you reading this who work in Higher Education, can we also agree to throw acronyms in the bin? Cool, thanks.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

I love this one the most. Look at it. It’s George Orwell saying ‘fuck the rules’ while, at the same time, breaking his own rule about picking short words over long ones. Lovely stuff.