• Robert Spicer

Bad English: Orwell’s principles and Parliamentary draftspersons

Orwell’s principles of good English could profitably be adopted by Parliamentary draftspersons, who do not need to be legally qualified, for example:

  • Clear thinking

  • Fearlessness

  • Avoid dead metaphors

  • Avoid foreign words

  • What am I trying to say?

  • What words will express it?

  • What image or idiom will make it clearer?

  • Is this a fresh image?

  • Could I put it more shortly?

  • Have I said anything avoidably ugly?

  • Avoid familiar metaphors

  • Avoid words which the averagely intelligent person cannot understand

  • Use short words

  • Use active not passive tense

  • Exclude Latin

  • Thoughts only have meaning if they are expressed in such a way that they can be understood

  • Theory constructed in an obscure way is meaningless to readers and makes sense, if at all, only to the writer

Bad writers are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin and Greek words are grander than Saxon ones.

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