Orwell’s Rules for Good Language
Orwell’s Rules for Good Language
Good written and verbal language is essential for effective communication. Writing in 1946, George Orwell points to several problems with the contemporary use of English. In his estimation, these problems lead to meaningless utterances that are unclear and imprecise. Orwell provides several suggestions for improving the use of English: avoid metaphors and over-used figures of speech, use short words in the place of long words, cut out unnecessary words, use the active voice, avoid the use of jargon by using words from everyday English, and break the rules if following them will create a statement lacking in sophistication.
These suggestions can be used as a measuring stick to gauge different author’s use of the English language. The writings of three authors were analyzed using Orwell’s suggestions as a guideline, and it was found that Cuthbertson and Bush violate the principles of good English while Lutz actively campaigns for the use of clear, precise English. In “From the Right,” Mike Cuthbertson violates many of Orwell’s rules; and as a result, the writing lacks clarity, and the imagery is not vivid. Take for instance the following sentence: “To accomplish this, I full well knew that some concessions to my gardener wife would be necessary.
” In this sentence, the author has some unnecessary words (“full well”) and uses a passive construction at the end of the sentence. This sentence could be more precise with the implementation of Orwell’s rules: “To accomplish this, I knew that I must make concessions to my gardener wife. ” Another example of Cuthbertson’s use of the passive voice appears in the following sentence: “So rural was the area that I actually attended a one-room school house for grades one and two (no kindergarten, then) before a brand new amalgamated school was built in the village and all the area kids were bused to it.
” Later in the passage, Cuthbertson uses a long, relatively uncommon word when a shorter, more frequently used word would convey his meaning just as well: “magnanimously proposed” could be replaced with “selflessly proposed. ” Throughout the passage, Cuthbertson uses figures of speech that have been so over-used they have lost their punch: “under the watchful eye,” “to earn our keep,” “at that tender age,” “the fairer sex,” “my better half,” “to keep my ego firmly in check,” “to lose myself in a good novel,” and “been put in my place.
” To be fair to Cuthbertson, it should be noted that he appears to have used this style of writing to serve a literary purpose, namely the evocation of his childhood years spent in a farming community and the lessons that continue to be felt in his married life. However, the author’s passive voice and over-used figures of speech detract from the imagery he seems to want to create in the reader’s mind. His communication would have been much more effective if he had created new ways of describing his situation. Alastair McKie’s compilation some of George W.
Bush’s statements contains some glaring examples of poor English. Not only does Bush violate Orwell’s suggestions for good English, he appears to be incapable of constructing proper sentences and using words correctly. For example, Bush repeats a made-up word, “misunderestimated,” three times in one paragraph. In another paragraph, Bush remarks that “ticket counters and airplanes will fly. ” Flying ticket counters would certainly be a remarkable occurrence! While the flying ticket counters remark is humorous, other of Bush’s statements are just confusing.
Take for example, “We are fully committed to working with both sides to bring the level of terror down to an acceptable level for both. ” If the United States and its allies are one side of the war on terror and the other side are the terrorists, is Bush saying that he is willing to work with the country of which he is president? Shouldn’t that go without saying? Bush, or at the very least his speechwriters, would have greatly benefited from reading Orwell’s essay, the following sentence in particular: “Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations.
” If Bush had a clear idea of what he wanted to say, maybe he would be better at saying it. Orwell has a further suggestion that could help Bush on his way to becoming a clear thinker who uses rhetoric more effectively. For Orwell, improvements in these areas will lead towards political improvements: “If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration. ” In contrast, George Orwell would have greatly admired William Lutz. Lutz spent sixteen years collecting examples of double-speak which he then compiled into a book.
Some of these examples are euphemisms for the most horrid things: “dehired” and “non-retained” (i. e. fired) and “negative patient care outcome” (i. e. death following a medical procedure). These euphemisms are similar in function to those, mentioned by Orwell, intended to mask indescribable horrors of war or to rationalize abhorrent behavior. Others of Lutz’s examples are needlessly complicated phrasings of simple concepts: “Exit access is that part of a means of egress that leads to an entrance or an exit. ” All those words simply indicate a way of accessing a door or window.
Still other examples are merely funny: “occasional protein spill” (i. e. vomit) and “television with non-multicolor capability” (i. e. a black and white television). These examples are similar to those cited by Orwell when he speaks of the relationship between euphemisms and insincerity. He finds that when writers are insincere, they cloak their real feelings in lofty, verbose language. One hopes that with Lutz’s drawing attention to the sheer amount of doublespeak that exists in our world, people will become more aware of how empty it is and stop using it.
In conclusion, Cuthbertson and Bush violate the principles of good English while Lutz actively campaigns for the use of clear, precise English. These three examples come from different genres: autobiography, speech, and non-fiction. As such, they provide evidence for the importance of good English as a communication tool in all areas of life. Orwell’s principles are effective guidelines to follow in any means of communication. After all, it is important to be clear, concise, and precise when communicating with others.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 November 2016
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